Laura Kurtz Kuhns, the newly hired Executive Director of Fay-Penn Economic Development Council of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, has an extensive history of working in community and economic development in and for the northern Appalachian region.
While President and CEO of Vandalia Heritage Foundation and its redevelopment corporation in northern West Virginia, Kuhns led efforts to revitalize communities throughout the region. She has overseen more than 50 projects, ranging from the transformation of numerous historic properties, to assisting communities and non-profits with planning, assessment and historic preservation based (re)development in downtowns and neighborhoods. Her efforts included obtaining competitive funding for a Neighborhood Stabilization Project in East Wheeling that constructed new affordable multi-family housing in a struggling neighborhood. She deployed Vandalia Redevelopment Corp. as Owner's Representative, constructing a new 260,000SF R&D center in Fairmont’s I-79 Technology Park, and a facility for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Flexible Manufacturing at Benedum Airport.
Prior to Vandalia, Ms. Kuhns was Managing Director and formerly Vice President for Development for the North Central WV office of McCabe-Henley, a statewide commercial real estate service firm. During her tenure with McCabe-Henley, Ms. Kuhns focused on downtown revitalization projects such as Veterans Square in Fairmont, a rehabilitation historic tax credit project; development and leasing of commercial sites; and led the winning proposal to develop Stonewall Resort in Lewis County, a public-private partnership with the State of West Virginia.
Formerly, Ms. Kuhns was Executive Director of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium in Fairmont, and a congressional projects aide to US Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (1st District, WV) in Washington, DC. She also worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WNPB-TV) in Morgantown following graduation from West Virginia University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and later studied public administration at the graduate level. Additionally, she was a licensed real estate professional, completing courses in the Certified Commercial Investment Management (CCIM) program.
While a member of the Governor’s Council for Community and Economic Development, Ms. Kuhns was selected by JETRO to study Japanese trade in Tokyo, and later studied competitive advantage at Harvard University’s graduate school of business, and “renovation and adaptive reuse” at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
In addition to the boards of local and regional community and economic development non-profit organizations, Ms. Kuhns has served for many years as an advisor (WV) to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She has advocated for affordable housing through her role as a long-time (founding) board member of National Community Renaissance (National CORE), a non-profit dedicated to preserving and expanding the nation’s affordable housing, for which she serves on the government affairs and audit committees. Ms. Kuhns has also worked in a volunteer capacity in various endeavors--including a non-profit artisan gallery and studios in Thomas, WV--that support economic opportunities for Appalachian artists. She was an inaugural member of West Virginia Magazine’s “Young Guns” and has presented numerous publications and presentations in the field of historic preservation and redevelopment.
She is supported in these endeavors by her husband Don and her rescue mutts Ginny (her home office manager) and Maxx (a two-time cancer survivor), not to mention a rescue cat named Sydney, who is in charge of the household.