As they graduated from the program on Nov. 18 at the Crossroads Institute in Galax, they shared their findings and offered ideas for ways to improve the Twin Counties’ economy and help train and retain a qualified workforce.
Each group gave a brief PowerPoint presentation on how to make the Twin Counties an “ideal community,” complete with research and ideas.
The first group focused on strengthening the local economy by requiring local governing bodies to spend at least 40 percent on local goods and services.
The second group noted that their futures were dependent on what we can all do as a community and offered a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
The third group compared local figures to national averages and determined that education is the key. They proposed making educational opportunities more readily available.
The fourth group conducted a SWOT survey, which had its answers compiled from more than 120 Twin County residents from all walks of life.
Course instructor Kevin Spurlin said the presentations showed that the graduates had a grasp of ways to improve the local economy.
“My goal was not to come in here and teach you and develop you, necessarily,” Spurlin said. “My goal was to unlock what was within you. Your presentations proved that that job happened. It’s not over, but it happened.”
Spurlin said now the task for the graduates is to apply what they’ve learned in real life situations.
“The cool part is you did all that work,” Spurlin said. “Until you go out there, and I don’t think you get a taste of the glory of that work until you go out and put it in practice. Me, this is a great night for me. Tonight, I get to look in your faces and see the difference one person can make.”
Dr. Edwin L. Barnes, President Emeritus of New River Community College and former Acting President of Wytheville Community College, spoke to the graduates about what it meant to be a leader.
Barnes described leaders as people with vision and the ability to sell a vision.
“Leaders inspire people,” Barnes said. “The term leadership implies followship. You can’t lead anything if you don’t have somebody following. The best leaders are the ones that can get someone to follow. The best leaders are the ones who are the least visible but somehow or other, things around the person happens.”
Barnes said good leaders also involve others and incorporate many ideas in order to reach the best possible outcome.
“If you teams learned anything at all during these presentations, you learned that everybody had something to contribute,” Barnes said. “It’s not a weakness to ask for help. It’s a compliment to ask somebody what they think. The more you can ask people and involve people, the better you’re going to be and the better the people are going to be.”
Members of the inaugural Twin County Leadership Institute class were Zach Barnes, Drew Bobbitt, Willie Carrico, Cody Cole, Kimberley Cox, Annasena Crowder, Brian Graff, Sheryl Manning, Sarah Martin, Maggie McClure, Gary Mitchell, Gaye Nichols, Althea Phipps, Neal Satterwhite, Brenda Sutherland and Taphne Volinskus.