HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — More than six months after a win in the America’s Best Communities competition, funding has already been allotted for two initial property purchases tied to one of the four Huntington projects proposed for the $3 million in revitalization award money.

Together, those four projects make up the Huntington Innovation Project or HIP.

“I think it’s going to be impactful,” said Margaret Mary Layne, president of Layne Consulting. “I think that, over time, it will impact our entire Appalachian Region.”

Layne is working as a consultant with the Foundation for the Tri-State Community and the City of Huntington to oversee allocations of the prize money which Huntington won in April in Denver, Co. and received officially in late June.

Plans call for the enhancement of factories and the building of a research hub and other development facilities in the Highlawn neighborhood.

On Huntington’s Riverfront, abandoned factories will be transformed.

A redevelopment is in the works for the Fairfield neighborhood with the building of modern housing and businesses connected to Cabell-Huntington Hospital.

On the West End, HIP includes the development of a training center to prepare out-of-work coal miners for different jobs.

“It’s about transformative activity and goals that will transform these neighborhoods which will then spread out,” Layne said. “The whole goal is for the whole city to be revitalized.”

Applications for shares of the funding are currently being reviewed, according to Layne, who said a three-year timeline for the usage of the funding was being established.

A panel made up of Layne, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and Mary Witten Wiseman, president of the Foundation for the Tri-State Community, will make initial recommendations to the Foundation’s Board which has ultimate oversight.

When considering how to spend the available funding, Layne said two questions were being considered:

1. “Is it a critical expenditure that will move the project forward?”
2. “Is it going to lead to catalytic change?”

“Those are the two big things we’re looking at,” Layne told MetroNews. She said priorities would be given to projects that leverage other funding or “take the project to the next level” where grant funding may not be an option.

Throughout the competition, Layne said Huntington was advised to limit its proposals.

The advice was not taken.

“It was the feeling of Mayor Williams and others that you can’t just do one thing and transform your city. You have to approach it holistically and from every level, otherwise you’re just doing one little thing and it can’t carry the transformation on its own,” she said.

Huntington was one of eight finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition.

The 2nd place finisher and winner of $2 million was Havasu City, Arizona while $1 million has gone to 3rd place finisher in Statesboro, Georgia.

Layne said she is proud of her city. “People are still willing to stand up and try to make Huntington a better place,” she said.

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