Let’s flash-back to October 2015. West Virginia is one of several coal-impacted states vying for more than $14.5 million in federal funding for new economic diversification projects.
The money is being made available through the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) initiative, led by the White House and done through a collaboration of multiple federal agencies.
West Virginia certainly has been impacted by changes in the energy sector as much as any of its Appalachian neighbors.
But on this fall day ten months ago that the 36 successful grantees were announced, our state won only 3. By comparison, Kentucky received funding for 13 projects. The $1.6 million in grants we received for local work was less than 10 percent of the total allocated to coal-impacted communities.
West Virginia was lagging behind our neighboring states. The agencies who managed the grants were clear with us about why. They told us our projects needed to be bolder, more collaborative, and regional in scope.
They challenged us to bring projects that were in the range of $1.5 – $2 million dollars. They challenged us to step up our game.
And so we did. Over a series of meetings this spring co-hosted by The Hub, TechConnect WV and the Benedum Foundation, more than 100 community leaders and stakeholders from across West Virginia came together to build strong POWER proposals for 2016.
Instead of building proposals in secrecy, the participants shared their grant ideas, their proposal amounts and the geographic scope of their projects. Participants worked together to link their projects, to reduce duplications, to build stronger, more regional projects.
The same participants who were in those meetings – the same people who stood up and shared their ideas with trust in the power of collaboration – were the same people in the room in Huntington this past Wednesday celebrating their success, and their newly funded projects.
This time around, West Virginia received $16.5 million of a total $38.8 million in POWER grants, 43 percent of the total funding.
This huge showing by West Virginia entrepreneurs on behalf of local projects sparked a colleague in Kentucky to send me an email congratulating West Virginia on our success and noting that, today, we were the star.
- The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority brought in $1,087,500 for two projects to expand their economic development expertise across the southeastern region of the state.
- The Hatfield McCoy Development authority received a $1,372,275 grant to expand trail-tourism employment in southern West Virginia.
- And the Upshur County Redevelopment Authority received a major $2,285,049 grant to build a facility to support and encourage regional business innovation.
These were only some of the awardees who were in that room for each of those meetings over the past nine months, working together to improve their projects.
And The Hub is celebrating their successes. We have come a long way as a state to position ourselves to take advantage of this funding opportunity.
West Virginia is the star this week. We are thrilled to see the success of our state and the economic transition leaders working to improve our coal-impacted communities.