The Williamson Learning Journey

Our group in front of the historic Mountaineer Hotel

Alexis, a Williamson Health and Wellness staff member, shares his personal transformation

Our local community partner, Williamson Health and Wellness Center

Our local community partner, Williamson Health and Wellness Center

Impact Experience brought together 22 leading impact investors, entrepreneurs, and universities—alongside community stakeholders—to develop a regional economic transition strategy and connect local leaders to global networks of talent and capital.

Williamson, West Virginia was fighting for its survival in the wake of the coal crisis. In the past four years, the county had lost more than 2,000 jobs, more than 25% of its workforce. On top of that, the community was battling some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and opioid abuse in the country.

Dr. Donovan Beckett, CEO of Williamson Health and Wellness Center, reached out to us to bring a Learning Journey to Williamson. Williamson Health and Wellness had done amazing work building a "Culture of Health," and were nationally recognized for their work by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the White House.  But they needed a partner who could help accelerate the linkage between healthy communities and vibrant economic development.

 The Learning Journey, facilitated by Impact Experience, comprised a group ready to reimagine the future of Williamson. An economic diversification strategy was developed over the course of the four days along with a commitment to action over the coming months.

Outcomes

Projects with potential to jumpstart economic activity and create new economy jobs:

Workforce Development

Retrain laid off mine workers for new economy jobs and retool reclaimed coal mines (300,000 acres in WV) for economic diversification opportunities.

Collaborators: National $600M venture investor, leading $400M solar company, regional redevelopment authority, award-winning WV social entrepreneur.

Health and wellness

Seeded creation of a Center of Excellence for integrated rural health, anchored by Williamson Health and Wellness (WHWC), a clinic recognized nationally by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Potential to create new revenue streams for WHWC and synergize several local assets: diabetes interventions, fitness culture, trail systems, tourism.

I’ve spent so much time during the past two days sharing the impact of our journey with my family and colleagues because it was such an incredible experience, one that is sure to facilitate positive change not only in our communities, but also in our lives. Thank you ALL, from the bottom of my heart, for your contributions, for your passion, for your commitments, and most importantly, for your friendship!
— Executive Director, Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (Community Participant)