Today was a huge day for West Virginia.
The Hub just received word that a number of our state’s most critical and innovative development projects will receive substantial federal funding support, through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative.
For those of you that haven’t been following the rollout of this POWER initiative, this is a coordinated funding package through the Economic Development Agency, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.
For West Virginia, POWER is a significant opportunity to foster new economic activity, build stronger communities, and create and attract the businesses and industries that will drive the state for decades to come.
It was great to hear some much-needed (and much-deserved) good news for Monroe County in the heart of the southern coalfields. POWER will provide $826,400 to extend public water services from the Town of Union to the UTC Aerospace Systems’ manufacturing plant, in order to meet its water demand. These are exactly the kinds of infrastructure investments that we believe are vitally important if West Virginia is to diversify its economic base by attracting new employers in sustainable, high tech industries.
The news today also shows us that POWER is eager to support our state’s bravest and most creative young entrepreneurs.
The Coalfield Development Corporation in Wayne County, which was founded in 2010 by Huntington’s Brandon Dennison, will receive $600,000 from the U.S. EDA to support increased agricultural production on surface mined sites, and provide job training, mentorship, and business incubation services throughout the region in order to help expand the local agriculture economy.
The POWER process will see West Virginia competing against other coal-impacted communities in 12 states for a share of the total available funds. In this round announced today, Kentucky received 13 grant awards, and Ohio, 3. The states that are succeeding in attracting the most POWER investment are those that are getting organized, and encouraging their business and community leaders to collaborate and submit strategic, innovative grant applications.
That’s where The Hub comes in. A few months ago we organized a gathering in Hawks Nest of interested industry and community leaders and federal officials, to help West Virginia’s southern coalfield communities begin developing project ideas that aligned with what the POWER grantees were hoping to achieve.
It is recognized that this organizing is a critical role, and so today The Hub received a $100,000 grant to develop community-specific economic diversification plans for five communities in the southern part of the state. That work has already begun.
What happens next? Well, that largely depends on Congress. The federal agencies have designated a much larger pot of money for continued investments in coal-impacted communities, which they plan to rollout in 2016 and beyond. This will be called the “POWER Plus Plan.”
To bring this additional funding to our region for next year, we need Congressional support for the POWER Plus Plan. West Virginia Representatives and Senators have a chance to speak up for their constituents and secure significant federal funding for our community through the POWER Plus Plan, just like we have started to see with today’s POWER Initiative funding.
If you are interested in learning more about POWER, and the opportunities it presents from your industry, region or community, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.