UPDATE: After the big $3M win, where’s the money going?

Published: Apr. 19, 2017 at 7:07 AM EDT
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UPDATE 4/20/17 @ 5:45 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – After more than two years of competition, there was a big win for the city of Huntington Wednesday, bringing a top prize of $3 million in the America's Best Communities Competition.

Huntington beat out seven other cities nationwide with its plans.

Now the question is, where will the $3 million in prize money go?

The short answer is the east side, west side and along Hal Greer Boulevard. In fact, the diversity of locations helped make Huntington stand out from the pack.

But less than 24 hours after the big announcement, city officials said knowing when that money will be spent that is a much more difficult question.

The excitement was obvious as the winning delegation in America's Best Communities contest came home to Huntington Thursday afternoon.

"This is a testament to our plan,” said Mayor Steve Williams. “But more than anything else, how our community came behind this."

The goal of the competition is to stimulate growth and revitalize cities.

Huntington's entry focuses on four areas.

First is the Highlawn brownfields on the east side. That’s 78 acres of old manufacturing sites the city wants to turn into manufacturing campus focused on polymer technology. It will go alongside new Marshall University facilities, a baseball stadium, hotel and conference center and pedestrian access to the riverfront.

Second is revitalization on the West End. It’s highlighted by turning a former clothing factory on Vinson Street into a regional jobs training center in everything from solar roof installation to furniture making and sustainable agriculture.

Third is the Fairfield Innovation corridor along Hal Greer Boulevard. The goal is to turn distressed neighborhoods and slums and a shortage of food choices to mixed income housing, grocery store and more healthcare jobs clustered near Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Fourth is gigabit city. The plan is to install high-speed broadband to connect the three above areas along with other key corridors.

"Those projects will be developed. It was my expectation they were always going to be developed, whether we won or lost,” Williams said. “The nice thing is, now we have 3 million dollars to help us along the way"

With the realization that $150,000 of prize money so far has been leveraged into $12.7 million in other grant money and awards, city officials hope there are 3 million reasons why the sky is now the limit.

"This is Huntington's award and everyone in our community," Williams said.

In a city that is facing financial issues on other fronts, there are few important key things to remember.

This money cannot be put into the city's general fund. It's administered by the non-profit Foundation for the Tri-State.

It didn't cost anything for Huntington to submit an entry. All travel costs, including the trip to Denver this week, were picked up the contest sponsors.

Williams also talked about the moment the announcement was made.

"I've dreamt it. I've envisioned it, expected it. But when it came down washing over me, it was just, 'I can't believe it.'"

He hopes this is just the beginning.

"There is something special that is happening in this community. It's blessed. In the midst of all the difficulties we have, we are blessed beyond imagining. My first thought was, thank you."

For more information on the America's Best Communities compitition, you can click on this link to go to their website: website https://frontier.com/corporate/community/abc-winners

UPDATE 4/19/17 @ 7:25 p.m.

DENVER (WSAZ) -- The city of Huntington won first place Wednesday night in America's Best Communities competition in Denver, taking home the $3 million grand prize in the process.

It took top honors among eight cities. Singer Vince Gill announced the honor just moments ago.

Lake Havasu City, Arizona and Statesboro, Georgia took second and third place, respectively, winning $2 million and $1 million each.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams released the following statement:

"On behalf of all Huntingtonians who worked so hard on this endeavor, we are honored and excited to be named America’s Best Community. Our citizens should stand proud.

"We have been aggressive with our aspirations. Our people believe in the direction we are taking with our community’s revitalization plan and, because of that, they have embraced our commitment to transform Huntington and the broader Appalachian region for the next 50 years.

"Lastly, we are extremely grateful to Frontier Communications, CoBank, DISH Network and The Weather Channel, which sponsored the America’s Best Communities competition. This competition has put the spotlight on small towns across the country and has proven to be a tool to move forward rapidly with our plans to strengthen the economic vitality of our communities.

"We make no little plans in Huntington. We aspire. We believe. We commit.”

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.


DENVER (WSAZ) -- The city of Huntington is just a few hours away from finding out if it is the big winner.

At noon Wednesday, Mayor Steve Williams presented to the judges of the America’s Best Communities competition in Denver.

Huntington was the first of the eight competing cities to present.

Williams gave some inspirational words based on the ABC acronym of America's Best Communities of Aspire, Believe and Commit.

He didn't shy away from talking about the city's problems either.

"There's no such thing as a great community that has no troubles,” Williams said. “The greatness is not defined by the absence of difficulty, but in the manner in which we join together to overcome troubled times."

First prize is $3 million, second prize is $2 million and third prize is $1 million.

The winner is due to be announced at 7 p.m. Wednesday.


DENVER (WSAZ) -- Huntington city leaders are making final preparations to pitches they will give for the America's Best Communities Grand Prize Ceremony Wednesday.

City leaders are in Denver, Colorado for the ceremony which will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.

The America's Best Communities competition is an initiative sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel to revitalize small towns and rural communities.

For almost three years, Huntington has been working toward developing a community revitalization plan to stimulate economic growth and development within the city.

Throughout the competition, Huntington has won a total of $150,000 in grant funding. Now, they are looking to bring home the top prize of $3 million.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will give his presentation Wednesday at noon in Denver.

The top prize will be $3 million, second place will get $2 million and third place will take home $1 million.

More than 350 communities entered the competition and now only eight communities remain:

  • Huntington, West Virginia
  • Chisago Lakes Area, Minnesota
  • Darrington/Arlington, Washington
  • Lake Havasu City, Arizona
  • Madison, Indiana
  • Statesboro, Georgia
  • Tualatin, Oregon
  • Valley County, Idaho
  • The grand prize award ceremony will take place Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

    A watch party will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Trifecta Productions, which is located on 5th Avenue in Huntington.