The City of Fairmont was once widely recognized as one of the best economies in the state of West Virginia. In recent years, the city has realized a decline in its economy and the job market, and recognizes the urgency to initiate a community revitalization program.
Under the supervision of Steven Outright, director of the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, three MBA students are at the forefront of the Fairmont Rising Initiative, a project to revitalize the city and boost its economy. Brody Prudnick of Charleston, West Virginia; Logan Stout of Flemington, West Virginia; and Ben Scott of Williamstown, West Virginia, along with other outside partners, are working to revitalize Fairmont.
“With the plan the BrickStreet team devised, we have the opportunity to return the city of Fairmont to the progressive community it once was,” Cutright said. “The experiential learning projects we employ at B&E are designed to help invigorate West Virginia’s economy, while providing students with real-world experience.”
The BrickStreet Center operates within the College of Business and Economics.
In early Fall 2014, Rocco Fucillo, State, Corporate and Local Relations Specialist at WVU, invited Cutright to attend a presentation by Main Street Fairmont on deconstruction. Weeks later, Cutright made an informal presentation to Fucillo based on the proposed holistic revitalization concept.
By spring 2015, Cutright presented the idea to Kate Greene, the director of Main Street Fairmont. Greene immediately embraced the concept and explained that Main Street Fairmont is participating in a multi-phase grant process called “America’s Best Cities” and competing for a $3 million grand prize. Main Street Fairmont’s submission, known as the 4Fairmont Movement, was selected as one of 40 first round winners and received $35,000 to assist them in round two.
“Our relationship with WVU has been very organic. The work that we're doing in two of our pillars is directly connected to initiatives already in place between the university and several 4Fairmont Movement collaborators,” Greene said. “When those connections were identified, the next logical step was to align the resources for maximum impact. Now, we’re engaged with both the WVU College of Business and Economics and the school’s Department of Public Administration to build capacity in our city.”
There are four pillars to the grant submission, and the MBA students are developing the fourth pillar founded on community revitalization. On Friday, October 23, they presented their plan to Main Street Fairmont. The final submission of the grant is due to the America’s Best Cities committee on November 6.
“The Fairmont Rising Initiative is an action plan that consists of four main components – deconstruction, demolition, reconstruction and planned communities. The City of Fairmont is comprised of many abandoned and distressed buildings. With this plan, we will utilize these buildings in the most beneficial manner for the city – whether it’s salvaging the materials and selling them or reconstructing the buildings to be usable assets,” Cutright said. “This action plan is meant to create job opportunities, engage new business and spawn an influx of a high income population in Fairmont.”
If selected as an America’s Best Cities round two winner, Main Street Fairmont will receive $100,000 to continue on in the competition. If selected as a finalist, first place receives $3 million, second place receives $2 million and third place receives $1 million. The 4Fairmont Movement is a collaborative effort of WVU, the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Fairmont State University, the City of Fairmont, Main Street Fairmont, Fairmont Community Partnership, Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, private industry partners and citizens of Fairmont.
Prudnick, Stout and Scott are working on the project 20 hours per week as graduate assistants through a collaborative funding effort of the Benedum Foundation and Sheetz, Inc. This project is also part of Entrepreneurship 430, B&E’s experiential learning course.
“WVU's students are bringing a fresh perspective to the table,” Greene said. “Beyond the professional skills and valuable tools they provide, they offer an outside view of who Fairmont is and they help us tell our story from a different point of view.”
“The Fairmont Rising Initiative has taught me the value in community engagement. As we pursue success in life, we must remember to give back to our communities. This project will remind me to stay humble throughout my career and lend a helping hand to those in need as my skills apply,” Prudnick said.