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.
In recognition that arts and culture are critical components to a healthy community and local economy, the Vogt Family Foundation awarded TwispWorks a grant to bring more arts and cultural programs to the TwispWorks campus. Earlier this month, TwispWorks announced it had secured funding for a performing arts pavilion to be built on the TwispWorks campus. The award from the Vogt Family Foundation will help activate the pavilion by providing funding to bring a host of arts, entertainment and events to the pavilion starting in 2020. The Vogt Family Foundation has been a long-time supporter of TwispWorks having assisted in capital projects and programs since 2013.
As part of the June 29th 10-year anniversary celebration, TwispWorks announced plans for a performing arts pavilion coming to the TwispWorks Campus in 2020. Two years ago, TwispWorks constructed the Plaza@TwispWorks, a 14,000 square foot outdoor space including pathways, a splash pad for kids to cool off, native plantings and a bike repair station – all designed to connect people to the outdoors and create a space for the celebration of arts and culture. The plan called for a pavilion at the east end of the plaza to host events, performances and exhibits. Now, due to the generous support of an anonymous donor, TwispWorks has secured full funding and construction will begin spring 2020.
The 1,000 square foot pavilion will include three sides of movable acoustic walls and state of the art lighting and audio capabilities. As part of TwispWorks mission to support economic vitality through arts and culture, the pavilion will be available to local arts organizations to deliver free programming to the community. This can include musical, dance and theatrical performances as well as art exhibitions and special events all creating a more inviting space for the community to enjoy.
Initially conceived by Brice Butler, TwispWorks partner and architectural firm, Serious Fun Studio, has designed the pavilion as a signature structure on the TwispWorks campus. It visually ties the pavilion into the recent updates to campus including the new Old Schoolhouse Brewery and Taproom. As a whole, the updates to the TwispWorks campus creates a community hub and economic engine optimized for people to walk the campus and enjoy the outdoors, attend events, shop and dine.
When the US Forest Service consolidated Methow Valley Ranger Station operations to Winthrop over a decade ago, many worried the Twisp campus would be relegated to the history books. But the entrepreneurial spirit of local residents combined with a generous $1 million loan from an anonymous donor to purchase the property, have given the campus a new life! With the loan came a challenge to promote economic vitality in the Methow Valley by reactivating the 6.4 acre campus while creating a financially sustainable business incubator. Since 2009, nearly 45,000 square feet of revitalized space has been created, both in the 17 existing building and in newly constructed spaces. Over 50% of the campus partners are artists and TwispWorks is also home to many businesses, two schools, a light manufacturing facility, a brewery and even the local newspaper and radio station!
With the campus facility fully occupied and sustaining itself through rental and earned income, the loan from the generous donor who purchased it from the USFS in 2009 has been forgiven and TwispWorks has secured the deed to the property. The community vision for revitalizing the old ranger station at the entrance to Twisp, creating an economic engine has been a decade in the making and we are grateful to this community for helping us achieve this milestone!