The Twisp Public Development Authority (PDA) is seeking qualified candidates to complete a technical infrastructure assessment of the Methow Valley’s broadband capabilities and future needs. The project seeks to identify a consultant to facilitate planning, identify industry best practices, perform local market analysis, inventory and map local infrastructure and demand, model broadband infrastructure expansion projects, perform business case evaluation on each model, identify and recommend implementation funding options, identify public or private partnerships and recommend an action plan. The complete RFP and evaluation criteria can be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals are due Monday, September 30, 2019 by 5pm PT.
TwispWorks has hired Julie Tate-Libby as the Director of Programs effective September 3, 2019. In this role, Julie will work with local government, businesses, nonprofit organizations, concerned citizens and economic development authorities to identify opportunities for TwispWorks to provide programming to support and improve the health of the local economy and the businesses who operate in the Methow Valley.
A long-time Methow Valley resident, Julie teaches anthropology and sociology at Wenatchee Valley College and has conducted research on rural communities whose economies rely on tourism including the Methow Valley and the Big Island of Hawaii. After receiving her PhD in tourism from the University of Otago in 2010, she returned to the Methow Valley to raise her family and teach. She has published several articles on tourism and rural migration and several creative pieces on fires and travels in the Himalayas. Julie has served on the board of Okanogan Family Health Centers, the Merc Playhouse and the North Central Washington Community Foundation. In addition to writing, teaching and research, Julie is an active community member and mother, and enjoys trail running and gardening in her free time.
This summer is the tenth anniversary of TwispWorks and there is much to celebrate! We’ve met the challenge of making the TwispWorks facility operationally sustainable and have received the deed to the campus. We’ve created vital programs like the Methow Investment Network and Methow Made to support local businesses, artists and producers. And, we’ve continued to advocate for issues important to our community and our local economy.
As we make plans for the next ten years, TwispWorks invited everyone to a series of community listening sessions to evaluate how we’re doing in the community and how we can best serve the Methow Valley in the future. After hearing from over one hundred and fifty people at the sessions, in focus groups and in an online survey, four themes emerged.
The first theme had to do with supporting economic diversity in the Methow Valley. This included a call for continued focus on small business consultation, incubation, and financial support. Community members expressed the need for developing markets outside the Methow Valley and creating business opportunities outside the tourist sector – a clear confirmation that our vision of a diverse and resilient economy resonates with the community. A second theme had to do with developing a vocation/technical training program and opportunities for skilled trades. Members also expressed the need for labor, both within the trades and in essential service jobs. A third issue we heard was the need for continued advocacy – like support of the Broadband initiative and ways to increase the ability to work remotely from the Methow. Lastly, community members expressed a growing concern with income inequality within the Valley and how to support a healthy economy that ensure a better quality of life for everyone.
We look forward to hearing from you more and working with workers, entrepreneurs and businesses to support a healthy economy in the Methow Valley!
The Washington State Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) has awarded the Twisp PDA a $50,000 grant for the Methow Valley Broadband Action Team (BAT) to identify areas in the Methow Valley that lack reliable broadband service.
According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 25 million Americans do not have access to a broadband-speed connection to the Internet. The vast majority—more than 19 million people—live in rural areas. This means nearly 31% of rural residents in the United States are unable to take advantage of digital services and capabilities that are an everyday part of life for many urban residents. This gap, known as the “digital divide” means rural areas like the Methow Valley are at a disadvantage when looking at the global market place and access to information and residents have fewer opportunities to access services like telemedicine and online learning.
In 2018, TwispWorks convened a Broadband Action Team (BAT) made up of local government and community members who recognized the lack of reliable broadband in some areas of the Methow Valley were impacting the economic health and well-being of the community. Community input in the process has been part of each step, including community meetings and an online survey where hundreds of Methow Valley residents and businesses provided input on their broadband needs. The BAT has also worked with infrastructure providers including Okanogan County Electric Coop (OCEC), Okanogan County PUD and internet service providers.
CERB funding for the project consists of a planning study to develop a community broadband plan to identify the technical requirements to bring improved and expanded broadband to underserved communities in the Methow Valley. To secure the $50,000 planning grant, CERB required a grant match of $16,667 which has been secured from Okanogan County and the Twisp PDA, each providing 50% of the match. In addition to leading the work of the BAT, TwispWorks wrote the grant and will lead the oversight of the study, while the Twisp PDA will administer the grant award. Once the technical requirements are understood, the BAT will look at funding for the technical implementation to bring services to areas lacking reliable broadband.
For more information about broadband access in the Methow Valley, check out TwispWorks’ position paper.
Earlier this month, TwispWorks bid a fond farewell to the latest group of National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) volunteers who spent six weeks in the Methow Valley assisting in a variety of construction, landscape and clean-up projects on the TwispWorks campus as well as projects for other nonprofits in the area. The NCCC is a national service program focused on improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more. Participants are typically in their late teens and early twenties and gain valuable life experience and build new skills while helping communities.
This was the 6th year members from the NCCC have committed time and energy improving and beautifying the TwispWorks campus. In addition to landscape and maintenance projects throughout campus, the team tackled the start of renovations to our West Shed – the last original building on campus needing updates to be utilized for business incubation. They removed the original 1×12 siding that was harvested and milled locally 70 years ago and repurposed the boards for a second life. They prepared the 1,500 space for a concrete floor and installed new framing for windows and doors. This fall, the West Shed will become the new home for four businesses, thereby helping to foster greater diversity in the local economy. Earlier NCCC projects included renovation work on the Bernard Hosey Founders Building, completing the expanded EQPD shop, assisting in various aspects of groundwork for the re-paving of our parking lot, and site preparation for what is now the 14,000 square foot TwispWorks Community Plaza.
Like all previous years working with NCCC, TwispWorks staff coordinated a multi-organization collaboration which increases the team members’ exposure to multiple facets of important nonprofit work happening in the Methow Valley. The organizations that have also put the young & willing hands to good work include: Classroom in Bloom, Methow Trails, The Methow Interpretive Center and Red Shed Produce. Team members have commented throughout the years how much they appreciate the diversity of projects and the warm welcome they receive.
The NCCC has been instrumental in reducing the cost and shortening the time for renovations to the TwispWorks campus, helping us to become a community hub and a center for creativity and economic vitality.