Huntington wins top prize at America’s Best Communities competition

DENVER — Huntington was named the winner of the America’s Best Communities competition Wednesday in Denver.

City officials were presented with a $3 million check, with the funds going to revitalization and development projects.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said prior to the announcement by singer Vince Gill, he received a call about an issue in the city.

“Somebody was upset because something had happened to someone in the park,” he said. “You have to hold everything in perspective.”

According to a presentation earlier Wednesday by Williams, the prize will go to four separate development projects, known as the Huntington Innovation Project (“HIP”) revitalization.

The plans includes:

— Transforming abandoned factories along the city’s riverfront into a technical center;
— Enhancing factories and building a research hub in the Highlawn neighborhood;
— Redeveloping the Fairfield neighborhood by building modern housing and businesses, which would be connected to Cabell-Huntington Hospital; and
— A training center next to a facility aimed at providing out-of-work coal miners training for different jobs.

Williams said for too many years, people from outside of Huntington have been commenting on the city’s problems.

“I’m proud to be able to say — and this will work across the country — this is worst to first,” he said.

Williams said all of the finalists should be considered winners, and the community leaders present are dedicated to solving their community’s problems.

“We do it one step at a time, one person at a time and one neighborhood at a time,” he said. “We do it because all we have to do is reach out and talk to someone.”

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., congratulated his hometown in a statement.

“Now, the country knows what Huntingtonians have known all along: Huntington is a very special place,” he said. “I am incredibly proud of the plan put forth by Huntington and wholeheartedly believe that our best days lie ahead.”

Gov. Jim Justice, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., congratulated the city on social media.

Huntington was one of eight finalists in the contest. The second-place winner was Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and the third-place recipient was Statesboro, Georgia. Those communities will receive $2 million and $1 million respectively for their proposals.

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