GLENVILLE, W.Va. (WBOY) — On Wednesday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Glenville State University celebrated the official launch of the West Virginia Pioneer Community Network inside the GSU Waco Center.

On Nov. 3, 2022, USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack announced that the agency’s Rural Partners Network was expanding to help 20 underserved counties in West Virginia, which led to the creation of two community networks: The West Virginia Pioneer Community Network and the Southern West Virginia Community Network.

The West Virginia Pioneer Community Network is coordinated by Glenville State University and includes eight counties: Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Nicholas, Roane, Webster and Wirt.

“We want to serve our communities and we didn’t hesitate a second when we were asked to collaborate and coordinate all this effort with all the communities you see here today,” said Dr. Mark A. Manchin, President of Glenville State University.

These eight counties were identified as distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission and this program is designed to help these counties get priority assistance.

“The counties that make up the Pioneer Network were identified as historically not receiving their fair share of federal resources over the past 5 to 10 years,” said Ryan Thorn, USDA Rural Development State Director, “their distressed designation means that these counties have the most need compared to their peers.”

During the next six months, the West Virginia Pioneer Community Network will submit signature projects that will be the priority for federal resources and assistance.

Thorn said the group will meet in 30 to 60 days and talk about what was discussed and figure out the priorities for the region.

“We will get with our partners to figure out what the priorities for the individual communities are, and also what the priorities are for the entire network, and from there we will formulate some solutions to identify and to help bring these projects to fruition,” Thorn said.

Additionally, the Southern W.Va. Community Network is coordinated by the West Virginia Community Development Hub and includes twelve counties: Mingo, Wayne, Lincoln, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers and Fayette.