It seems like every month, I write about how that particular month was the busiest or most important so far. But I guess that means we are building momentum and this project is really getting off the ground. The meetings we held in September were some of the most important so far, and the small projects that we have been planning are now done and on the ground, or moving closer to being finished.
The first thing we did in September was have a meeting with Carl Knoblock, the District Director of the Pittsburgh office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since we are concerned with helping new small businesses open, he was invaluable to us. Carl gave us an overview of what services the SBA can offer, as well as general business advice to pass on to people that come to me with business ideas. He later shipped us many copies of “Small Business Resource” magazines that we can give to small businesses, and he offered to visit any of our towns if we would like him to get an “on the ground” view of what we are doing.
Then, the entire corps took off for West Virginia and Maryland, to tour the C&O Canal Towpath trail, and the towns along it. The original plan had been to ride the entire towpath trail, but due to heavy rains and flooding, we did most of the trip by car. On the second day, however, there was enough of a break in the weather to allow some of us to ride about twenty miles of the trail. We did meet with officials, business people, and representatives from various groups in the towns, who showed us their towns were taking advantage of their natural resources and attractions. We not only enjoyed the entire trip, but found the new ideas and experiences useful in our work back in Pennsylvania.
Back in Pennsylvania, I held or attended many useful meetings. The monthly meeting of our River Towns Action Team was one of the most productive meetings so far. Many partner groups are beginning to become involved, such as GTECH strategies (a Brownfield redevelopment group), and the Izaak Walton League (a conservation group). We continued to work on our proposal for the Local Share Account funds. I have solicited letters of support from various groups, and have also begun to look for alternative sources of funding, to provide a match for any LSA funds. The largest of these matching funds could come from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. I have been actively researching their grant program.
Once these meetings and planning sessions were over, we got our hands dirty and got some projects done in our towns. These included a park clean up day in Rices Landing, in which we removed debris from a concrete retaining wall, volunteering at “FestiFall” at Friendship Hill NHS, volunteering at “Love Local Weekend”, and even appearing as guests on a local radio show to promote the River Towns Program. Finally, I have set up more work days for the beginning of October, in both Fredericktown and Rices Landing.