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Imperfect but Working Together Huntington Wins Best Community
Lake Havasu City, Arizona ,earned second place and Statesboro , Georgia, won third place.
Often the object of ridicule and scorn as the blunt of "worst" list rankings (unhealthy. number of overdoses, etc.). the Huntington team led by Mayor Steve Williams turned challenges into community involvement and strengths into shared visions.
Although not part of the revitalization plan, the Mayor's Office of Drug Policy, created in response to the heroin / opioid epidemic illustrates the "fighting back" spirit exemplified in the Warner Bros. fact inspired "We Are Marshall,"concerning the football program's (and the city's) revival following the devastating plane crash.
As an example of fighting back at struggles, the administration created the Mayor's Office of Drug Policy as one component in the continued drug addiction epidemic, which plagues small, medium and large cities nationwide. After a series of tragedies, the Drug Policy office convened a series of educational forums on substance abuse, leading to innovative interventions, which led to White House honors for leadership and frequent request from other cities for assistance in creating similar programs. Although the OD issue remains high due to the distribution of powerful, synthetic drug combinations, the corresponding assumption is how much worse would the epidemic if those innovative steps had not been taken?
The City's innovation plan addresses four components --- defining positives in an ocean of negative issues --- which if fulfilled will bring strong economic development.
America's Best Communities said:
"After securing the competition’s $3 million grand prize, Huntington is poised to become a gateway for revitalization in the Appalachian region. It will invest in its Huntington Innovation Project (HIP) Plan, which aims to transform distressed neighborhoods, where the old manufacturing and coal-sector economy has declined, into hip hubs for advanced manufacturing, innovative makerspaces and entrepreneurial incubators, healthcare businesses and green community improvements."
The four component plan (download attachment in PDF below) includes:
The Highlawn brownfields project would redevelop 78 acres of vacant heavy industrial property along the Ohio River using a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The development would be anchored by Rubberlite Inc.'s Polymer Technology Center of Huntington, or PolyTeCH.
The Hal Greer Health Innovation Corridor aims to transform the Hal Greer Boulevard gateway and Fairfield neighborhood by replacing dilapidated public housing with commercial and residential redevelopment, street improvements and enhancing Cabell Huntington Hospital's role as a regional center for health care jobs and healthy lifestyles.
West End revitalization will continue the city's River-to-Rail initiative to renew Huntington's West End as well as rejuvenating the Central City commercial district along 14th Street West by improving building facades, streetscapes and green infrastructure improvements.
Gigabit City will connect the aforementioned areas of Huntington and downtown with high-speed broadband through a public-private partnership.