By TIM PRESTON
After nearly a full year of retirement from his post as president of the Ashland Alliance, Jim Purgerson is returning to the professional world as a development consultant for Highlands Museum and Discovery Center in Ashland.
Purgerson said he’s enjoyed his time off visiting grandchildren in Louisiana, completing projects at home and indulging in his love of garage sales, but is now ready to get back to work.
“When Chris Pullem and Carol Allen contacted me, what attracted me most about it was trying to help. I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for the museum and it goes back to what I’ve always talked about with quality of life. Today economic development is as much about attracting young people as it is about attracting new companies,” Purgerson said, explaining the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center is a crucial aspect of the Ashland area’s attractions along with places including the Paramount Art Center, Pendleton Arts Center, Jesse Stuart Foundation “and even Starbucks. Those things collectively are very important.”
Purgerson said he hopes to raise awareness of the museum’s programs and mission while making personal contact with area business owners and managers, including “many who probably haven’t been asked yet.”
Noting the presence of school buses from West Virginia parked outside, Purgerson said he hopes to further establish the museum as a resource for the Tri-State and beyond.
“Not many communities this size have something like this and I think it is very important we keep it,” he said, emphasizing the facility’s value to the overall community.
Purgerson said he also plans to work diligently to correct misinformation and misunderstandings about the museum’s financial status.
“There are some people who think the museum is in money trouble but it is really quite the opposite,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t want to invest in things if they think it’s going under.”
Allen, the museum’s executive directior, and board member Pullem said everyone involved agreed Purgerson was the right man for the job.
“This is a great day for Highlands Museum. We are tickled to have Jim as a development consultant and help us move upwards. We have a lot of new ideas in store and Jim will help us move forward with the financing for those things,” Allen said.
Allen said the addition of Purgerson will allow her to focus on other important aspects of the museum’s operations.
“This job can absorb you at this desk,” she said, shaking her head slightly as she explained the museum’s board of directors have built in considerable flexibility for her tasks. With past experience in government circles, Allen said she hopes to pursue increased funding and resources from those sources as Purgerson concentrates on local support. Working with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, Allen said the museum hopes to soon unveil a hands-on exhibit which will help local people understand the nature of obesity problems. Pullem said the museum’s directors also hope to enhance the discovery center portion of the museum, noting the importance of the downstairs area for the majority of their visitors.
“They’re not just coming here to play. There’s some real educational opportunities here,” Pullem said. “Of course, all of these things take money. We have some money in the bank now, but we don’t have enough to do everything.”
Alen and Pullem agreed the museum is in a promising position for the future, with ambitions to purchase the downtown building from the ACTC Foundation and expand programs and exhibits on the facility’s upper floors.
“Only 20 percent of our materials are on display. Eighty percent of it is in storage,” Allen noted.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.