West Virginia State University Extension Agent Hopes to Bolster Tourism in Upper Kanawha Valley

Contact: Jack Bailey
(304) 766-4109
July 8, 2021
West Virginia State University Extension Agent Hopes to Bolster Tourism in Upper Kanawha Valley
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Agent Allison Smith has big plans for the upper Kanawha Valley. The newly appointed agent for community and economic development is passionate about tourism and excited to make progress in regional development. 

“The Upper Kanawha Valley is an untapped region of West Virginia,” said Smith, whose office is located in the town of Smithers. “We experience a tourism and marketing gap between Charleston and the New River Gorge because people don’t know what the area has to offer in terms of restaurants, lodging and recreational opportunities. The Upper Kanawha Valley has so much momentum at this point in time. I hope to sustain and build from the energy and sense of connection in the area.” 

Smith will be implementing grant projects and plugging into ventures that will build the infrastructure needed to support recreation in the towns of Montgomery and Smithers, such as recreational trails and open spaces, which have proved to be popular in other areas. 

After starting her position in June, Smith began meeting with local stakeholders, from nonprofit leaders and vendors to business owners and city officials, including the mayors of Montgomery and Smithers. 

“We are more than grateful to WVSU for partnering with us to fill a critical need: economic and community leadership in our region,” said Smithers Mayor Anne Cavalier. “Allison has only been with us a month, but she’s already taken the pulse of our ‘one community, two cities.’ She’s gotten to know us and our most promising paths forward in tourism, and she has engaged current and new partners. Mayor Ingram and I have formed a bond to rebuild the area, to bring hope to residents and businesses, and Allison has seamlessly joined that bond. We could not be more pleased to have her on the Valley team.”

“Allison is proving to be that catalyst and link to provide the support and energy required to rebuild an economy devastated by recent events in the Upper Kanawha Valley,” added Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram. “We appreciate the vision and commitment of WVSU to support these model communities in rebuilding what will prove to be a blueprint for West Virginia. WVSU, with the energy of Allison Smith and vision of Montgomery and Smithers, will set the standards for the future of small communities in West Virginia.”

Smith is exploring a variety of plans for the area, including constructing a fishing pier, rail trail, riverfront park, open-air stage, and more. She was also on-hand earlier this month for the opening of a new urban walking trail in Smithers.

“In our corner of the state, we’re talking lodging, restaurants, events, and arts,” she said. “One of the most enjoyable parts of my job so far has been meeting people who are genuinely enthusiastic about the future of these small localities.”

Smith wants to help build attractions that will not only fuel tourism, but also make local people and families come out and enjoy their neighborhoods. 

“My ultimate goal is to sustain and improve the quality of life for community members in Montgomery and Smithers,” she said.

The position is a partnership between WVSU Extension Service and the Upper Kanawha Valley Strategic Initiatives Council. 

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multiā€generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
Reasonable accommodations will be made to provide this content into reasonable alternate accessible formats upon request. Please contact the WVSU Extension Service office at (304) 204-4305 or extension@wvstateu.edu.
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