West Virginia took an enormous step toward a more diversified and sustainable economy today, with the announcement that 13 West Virginia projects would receive almost $16.5 million in grant funding through the federal government’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative.
At an event held at the Wild Ramp in Huntington, officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration today announced $38.8 million worth of investments to grow the economy in the nation’s coal–impacted communities. Almost half of this was designated specifically to West Virginia.
In addition to the state-specific economic diversification projects, $1.5 million was granted to the Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor, a 5-state, 43-county project to develop a coordinated local foods distribution network throughout Central Appalachia, including West Virginia.
Here’s a quick summation of the West Virginia initiatives to receive funding.
• $2,500,000 total (a $1,500,000 ARC grant and a $1,000,000 EDA grant) to the Bluewell Public Service District in Bluefield, WV for the Mercer County Regional Airport Development and Diversification Initiative.
POWER funds will be used to extend public water service along Route 52 and Airport Road to the Mercer County Regional Airport. In addition to providing essential infrastructure to the regional airport, the project will create 38 new jobs, and will capitalize on an existing regional asset by providing funding for a strategic plan that will position the airport and its adjoining 200 acres of flat, developable land as an economic driver for four counties in Southern West Virginia and Southwestern Virginia.
• $2,285,049 EDA grant to Upshur County Development Authority in Buckhannon, WV, for the Upshur County Knowledge and Innovation Business Center.
This project consists of the construction of the new Business Center on property donated by the City of Buckhannon, which will host a small business development center to be managed by the Upshur County Development Authority. Small business development support services will be targeted to IT and other technology-based business interests. The Center will also provide flex-office and incubator space.
Broadband access will be available at the facility as a result of a privately-funded initiative to address the current lack of broadband access in Upshur County. One technology company has already committed to locating in this facility. The project will create and retain 78 jobs and leverage $8,500,000 in additional investment.
• $2,196,450 ARC grant to the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education in Charleston, WV for the EntreEd K-14: Every Student, Every Year project.
The EntreEd program enables K-12 teachers to integrate entrepreneurial content and context into delivery of required standards in any subject or grade level. The project will educate the next generation of Appalachia’s workforce to create their own businesses to drive the local economy.
• $1,870,000 ARC grant to the Coalfield Development Corporation in Wayne, WV for the Appalachian Social Entrepreneurship Investment Strategy.
ARC funds will be used to incubate job-creating social enterprises; scale-up Coalfield Development Corporation’s innovate 33-6-3 on-the-job training/education/life skills workforce development model; and expand Coalfield Development Corporation’s service territory to other coal-impacted areas in Southern West Virginia.
The award will create 85 new jobs and equip 60 trainees to pursue quality jobs in high-demand industries in the Appalachian Region, and will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
• $1,822,500 total (a $1,200,000 EDA grant and a $622,500 ARC grant) to the Randolph County Development Authority in Elkins, WV for the Hardwood Cluster Manufacturing Expansion Project.
POWER funds will be utilized to expand a major cabinet manufacturer’s operation by enabling the doubling of its current production rate due to a new national contract – thereby creating 45 new jobs and adding $2,500,000 in annual wages to the regional economy. In addition, the award will strengthen the Hardwood Alliance Zone – a nine-county region in Central West Virginia containing a cluster of hardwood businesses.
• $1,648,400 EDA grant to Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) and Mingo County Public Service District in Williamson, WV for the Mingo County Air Transportation Park Infrastructure Improvements project.
The project will provide potable water to the Mingo County Air Transportation Park atop a reclaimed surface mine in the center of the county, which MCRA is positioning as an industrial site for light and advanced manufacturers.
It will include construction of approximately 62 thousand feet of water line, a 500 gallon-per-minute booster pumping station, a one-million-gallon water storage tank, and other related equipment, as well as an on-site sewage, aeration, and absorption system. The project will create and retain 520 jobs and leverage $9,000,000 in additional investment.
• $1,372,275 ARC grant to the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority in Man, WV for the Southern Coalfields Sustainable Tourism & Entrepreneurship Program.
ARC funds will develop and implement a comprehensive plan to expand tourism-related employment and businesses in southern West Virginia, and will foster Hatfield-McCoy Trail expansion in Kentucky and Virginia. In addition, the award provides for the deployment of a coordinated marketing effort, which will increase the region-wide economic impact of the Trails by $13,000,000 per year. The project will create 225 jobs and 50 new businesses along the Trails, and will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
• $1,250,000 ARC grant to the Natural Capital Investment Fund, Inc. in Shepherdstown, WV for the Growing Triple Bottom Line Small Businesses in Coal Impacted Communities in Central Appalachia project.
These funds will be used to expand coal- impacted communities’ access to capital in Southern West Virginia by capitalizing a $4,000,000 tourism-related revolving loan fund and developing a West Virginia New Markets Tax Credit Fund.
The project will create 200 new jobs and 20 new businesses, bring $5,000,000 of leveraged private investment into the region, and will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
• $967,500 ARC grant to the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority in Beckley, WV for the New River Gorge Region – Developing an Entrepreneurial Economy project.
ARC funds will be used to establish a technical assistance support program — which will assist start-up businesses with hands-on technical aspects of their operations — and to hire social enterprise and region-wide business coaches.
• $250,000 EDA grant to the Advantage Valley, Incorporated (AVI) in Huntington, WV for the AVI Site Development and Small Business Feasibility Study.
This study will identify sites for commercial development within identified clusters (including manufacturing, chemical and polymer production, and supply chain distribution), and assess how small business activities can be targeted to meet the needs of existing and new industry clusters (such as health care) in an eight-county area.
This EDA investment will also support the analysis of the critical components necessary to establish a site development fund. AVI is partnering with the Charleston Area Alliance, West Virginia Small Business Development Center, and regional economic development organizations to develop this project, which will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
• $200,000 ARC grant to the West Virginia Development Office for the Hobet Strategic Plan.
West Virginia will receive technical assistance to develop a detailed economic assessment and strategic plan for the best use of the Hobet Surface Mine Site in Boone and Lincoln Counties, previously the largest surface mining operation in the state.
• $120,000 EDA grant to New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) in Fayetteville, WV for a NRGRDA Regional Business Loan Study.
This study will assess the feasibility of establishing a comprehensive Regional Loan Fund to invest in the most economically challenged communities in Southern West Virginia.
• $10,000 ARC grant to The EdVenture Group in Morgantown, West Virginia for the Creating Opportunities, Diversifying Economy for displaced coal miners (CODE) project to develop a sustainable plan for economic diversification.
The project being developed is expected to serve 12 counties in West Virginia.
More information about today’s announced awards is available through the ARC Web site at www.arc.gov.