BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Bostian educated Rotarians about local economic challenges and opportunities Tuesday afternoon. Bostian noted, “We have a very special thing going on here with the leadership that is so involved and looking for ways to move things forward.” Since recently taking on the new role, Bostian is eager to provide perspective and receive feedback about the future of Upshur County.
Bostian joined the UCDA in August 2021 after relocating from Maricopa, Arizona where she worked for the City of Maricopa as Deputy Director of Community Services, as well as in various roles within the Economic Development Department. As someone new to area and UCDA, learning assets of the region and trying to initiate all the new relationships, has been first on the agenda for Bostian. She noted she has met with many community leaders to get a brief overlook of what has done well and what needs to be improved. Bostian noted that UCDA Assistant Director Melody Stemple and former Director Rob Hinton “left everything in great shape.”
According to Bostian, UCDA has a number of ongoing projects in the works. They are currently working on several broadband projects, which is reportedly taking considerable time due to learning and understanding where they are all located, according to Bostian. She also noted that there are two new medical marijuana growing facilities coming to Upshur County and the UCDA is on their final build out in the Innovation Center for Klie Law office.
Over the next 3-4 months, Bostian will be working on a new strategic plan for the UCDA. She emphasized, “As the lead economic development organization, we need to have clear vision.” The UCDA is currently working with Orion Strategies of Buckhannon to complete the strategic plan. She is hopeful it will be finalized in February or March.
Bostian noted it is imperative to have active retention with local businesses. “It is more efficient for us to keep the businesses we have here, than to find new ones. It is important for us to take care of our existing businesses,” she affirmed.
A big aspect of economic development comes from marketing and communications, according to Bostian. She is currently working with an intern from West Virginia Wesleyan College to update the UCDA website and to create a more robust social media program. Also in her vision for the UCDA, they will be creating and distributing a quarterly newsletter to get information out regarding small business development, workforce development, and other economic development related news.
Rotary President Kathy McMurray asked Bostian what lead her to Buckhannon. Bostian replied, she was looking for an opportunity to move back east, and Buckhannon is only an hour from her daughter and son-in-law. She also noted that working in a community such as Buckhannon was exactly what she and her husband were looking for. Bostian spent the last two years in the dessert and she expressed her excitement to see the leaves change and to experience seasons again.
In response to Rotarian Don Nestor’s question regarding her first impression of Buckhannon, Bostian expressed that Upshur County is unique in the way that it only has one city in the entire county—which creates a lot of opportunities and challenges. She mentioned that Buckhannon seems to be the “economic engine” of the area and observed when meeting with a lot of people outside of the county, “there is always talk what a neat vibe this community has.” In her professional opinion, there is also a good mix of local and people from elsewhere who have relocated, “coming together and making things happen.” She added, “There is a good amount of social capital, if you will.”
City Recorder and fellow Rotarian Randy Sanders asked Bostian about challenges for the UCDA. Bostian noted that the most challenging is going to be identifying more property for development. They simply need to find more property, and in her opinion, this will require them to have a more regional prospective. “Because we are small, we need more workforce, we need more opportunities for our people that live here. We just need to be part of something bigger. It doesn’t take away from our own identity, it just makes us part of something bigger,” she expressed. Bostian also noted that Upshur County obviously has some challenges related to completing broadband and bringing more fiber into the area more specifically, but the UCDA will continue working on that and “keeping their foot on the pedal.”
Directed towards the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur, Bostian expressed, “This organization does so much. You support so many worthy causes and I hope to get more involved as I grow in Upshur.”
Over the span of 25 years, Bostian has been involved in municipal government, railroad transportation, sales and marketing, economic and industrial development, and site selection consulting projects. She has co-owned her own consulting businesses and was a Senior Project Manager for CH2M Hill and Lockwood Greene Engineers. Additionally, she is a certified Professional Community Economic Developer. Bostian earned her MBA from the University of Phoenix and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso.
In other Rotary Club news, members are currently providing donations for the Thanksgiving basket distribution at the Upshur Parish House and they will also be volunteering with the distribution of the meals.