In 2015, Eastern commissioned an independent study by Pegasus Planning and Development to review regional economic development and entrepreneurial opportunities in the Potomac Highlands Region. As a result of this study, as well as IREED’s own extensive research, and with the assistance of regional, statewide and federal partners, IREED developed economic initiatives and continues to serve as an economic development multiplier by initiating, accelerating and launching economic development and entrepreneurship activities in the region.
The development of a "creative economy" means driving job creation by capitalizing on a region’s cultural, natural, and human assets. A Regional Tourism/Arts Initiative was identified as an essential component in Potomac Highlands' economic development. IREED expanded this to a larger vision of developing a "creative economy."
The Potomac Highlands Creative Economy Initiative capitalizes on the region’s cultural, heritage, and natural assets by encouraging collaboration among businesses and others working in the creative economy. While Eastern has a service area of six counties, the efforts of the creative economy were expanded to encompass eight counties to conform with and meet the definition of the "Potomac Highlands" as defined by the WV Department of Tourism. As a result, the counties included in the scope of work include Hardy, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant, Pendleton, Tucker, Pocahontas, and Randolph.
Some of the past and current initiatives include:
- Monthly Convening of the Potomac Highlands Creative Economy Council
- Annual Tourism Conference
- Historic Masonry Preservation Workshop
- Farm to Bottle Events
- Maple Days
- Tourism Clustering Leadership and events
- Assisted with South Branch RiverFest
- Library Summit
- AmeriCorps site
Free Business Resources
IREED identified the potential of using green technology solutions to turn waste products such as poultry litter and wood waste into energy while at the same time creating a value-added product – biochar. IREED assembled a broad range of global experts from various backgrounds, including academics, researchers, federal and state agencies, private consultants, small businesses, national biochar, and waste organizations coupled with experts experienced in entrepreneurship and commercialization and the Eastern Biochar Group was formed. Since its humble beginnings, this group now operates a "grassroots" national effort to promote biochar.
This initiative is working closely with Eastern's Biological and Environmental Technology program creating trained and knowledgeable people who will ensure responsible economic development while protecting our water, air, and biological systems for our generation and future generations. Funding from the Regional Planning and Development Council has assisted Eastern in developing workshops, annual summits, meetings, and more.