What's Next, WV?

What's Next, West Virginia? is a nonpartisan, statewide initiative designed to encourage community-based conversations about our state's future and to help communities plan actions based on their own ideas for building stronger local economies. It is being organized by a broad--and growing--coalition of partners from non-profit, philanthropic, governmental, educations, and faith-based organizations. Get involved today!

How Does It Work?

  • The West Virginia Center for Civic Life will offer workshops and materials to those who want to convene and facilitate local discussions.
  • The West Virginia Community Development Hub will provide coaching and other assistance to help communities turn ideas in actions.
  • West Virginia Public Broadcasting will share stories of West Virginians who are working to create a prosperous future.


There’s a movement afoot to reinvent the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, a once vibrant factory town that has since settled into decades of industrial decay. Like most movements for change, it’s beautiful, messy, inspiring, and complicated. And the young people leading the way say: it’s worth it.

A previous story, "Young Wheeling," focused on some of the young leaders who are working to build a new economy in the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, after decades of economic decline. Some are buying and rehabbing old houses in the neighborhood of East Wheeling, historically home to the city’s African American community. The revitalization movement is largely made up of middle class, white professionals.

Since the days when mules carted coal and miners were paid in company credit, coal has heavily influenced the economy of Central Appalachia. But today, far fewer people make a living in mining here.  West Virginia had 132,000 miners in 1950.  Today there are fewer than 20,000, and that number is falling.  

Dream big, or go home. 

That was Huntington Mayor Steve Williams’s message to attendees of “What’s Next, Huntington?” as he kicked off a community forum in January 2015. The initiative is designed to engage the city’s residents in envisioning and planning for a brighter economic future. 

It’s a momentous time to be living in Berkeley County. The economy in this Eastern Panhandle community is growing and diversifying. So is the population, as people from the nearby cities of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore migrate ever westward in search of a lower cost of living and more relaxed pace of life. Over half of residents now work outside the county, which sits at a crossroads of interstates and enjoys access to commuter rail to D.C.

Catherine Moore

Early one morning this past January, two Clay County school busses pulled up at the state capitol complex in Charleston. Inside were members of the group “What’s Next, Clay County?”, one of twenty-five communities across the state that is organizing to strengthen their local economy as a part of the “What’s Next, WV?” initiative. 

Over seventy people attended their first community meeting last fall—not a small feat in a community of their size. They chose five areas to focus their work: youth and education; infrastructure; small business; drugs; and cleaning up trash and dilapidated properties.

Catherine V. Moore



This story was produced as part of What's Next, West Virginia?, a collaboration between West Virginia Public Broadcasting, West Virginia Center for Civic Life, and West Virginia Community Development Hub, among others.

Over the past two years, 1,800 coal miners in Boone County have been laid off from work—that’s a fifth of the county’s total labor force. And the crisis doesn’t show any signs of slowing. At the end of July, Alpha Natural Resources announced it expects to lay off 1,100 more workers at 11 mines in southern West Virginia.

The West Virginia Coal Festival, held every year at the end of June in the county seat of Madison, is a good place to gauge how the layoffs are affecting everyday life for Boone County families--not only the economy, but also the political landscape and discussions about the future.

Kristi George / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Almost every year since 1936, a select group of high schools boys have attended Mountaineer Boys State, and since 1941 girls have attended Rhododendron Girls State. The week long camps, sponsored by the American Legion, focus on citizenship, leadership and patriotism. This year, Boys State focused on the nonpartisan, statewide initiative, What’s Next, West Virginia?  The young men at Boys State had a great deal to add to a conversation on positive change in West Virginia during a 45 minute discussion in Charleston.

What's Next, West Virginia?

May 21, 2014

What's next for West Virginia? That's a question that will be posed to community members at meetings across the state in the coming months.  The West Virginia Center for Civic Life promotes local dialogue to challenge us to talk about problems and find solutions to better the quality of life here.  The center is holding its 18th annual Civic Life Institute at the University of Charleston on June 4 and 5.  The institute will train citizens from across the state to hold and facilitate local meetings to find out what's next for West Virginia.   Center director Betty Knighton and Catherine Moore, an Appalachian Transition Fellow assigned to the project, stopped by our studios to talk with West Virginia Morning host Beth Vorhees about the initiative.

Watch former First Lady Gayle Manchin and others debate the future of West Virginia in this video. Other participants include Perry Bryant of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and former state Sens. Lloyd Jackson, Brooks McCabe and Dan Foster.

Updated: Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:35 a.m. 

Our interactive story map and project recap is now available. Access the map to see some of our favorites from the project.

Original Post: Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 12:23 p.m.:

Why do you stay in West Virginia? Is it friends, family, work, recreation? Use Instagram and let us know.

Recently, we aired a series on West Virginia's predicted population decline and how some young people feel about their opportunities in the state (or lack thereof). Most of those we spoke to said they love West Virginia and want to stay--be it for family or other reasons--but feel there's few good professional opportunities worth staying for.

In addition, a recent poll from Gallup indicates that only 28% of West Virginians want to move to another state.

With this in mind, we're teaming up with public radio stations from across the country to find out what makes people stay where they are. But, we wanted to do it in a creative way. So, we're taking it to Instagram. 

How would you describe the future of West Virginia in six words? We want to know as part of our digital project, What's Next for West Virginia

Here's your chance to join the conversation and offer six words that reflect what you feel is next for the state.