ACT Now Coalition Launched to Bring Green Jobs, Resilience & Economic Development to WV

Coalition Chosen by U.S. Economic Development Administration for $500,000 “Build Back Better Regional Challenge” Grant – with Effort Now to Leverage $100 Million More

An exciting coalition of West Virginia cities, economic revitalization organizations, leading academic institutions, and private sector innovators joined at non-profit Coalfield Development Corporation’s “West Edge Factory” in Huntington, WV on Monday, February 7 to officially launch the “Appalachian Climate Technologies” Coalition or (“ACT Now Coalition”).  ACT Now will transform the struggling southern West Virginia region with economic investments and job creation in solar roofing and community solar installations, upgrades of buildings to be green and energy smart, redevelopment of dead factories and idled brownfields for new green technology manufacturing and other sustainable uses, green collar jobs, and the transformation of abandoned minelands into productive new sectors.

On December 15, 2021 Coalfield Development’s CEO Brandon Dennison joined at the White House with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, the U.S. National Climate Advisor, the Director of the White House National Economic Council, the Director of the Intergovernmental Council on Energy Communities, and the Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, to be named one of only 60 finalists in the national “Build Back Better Regional Challenge” (BBBRC).  BBBRC is a billion-dollar contest that has provided 60 finalists including the ACT Now Coalition with $500,000 each to finalize their plans for economic diversification and transformation into new and innovative sectors.  In March 2022, Coalfield and its ACT Now partners will submit grant applications seeking $75 million, leveraged with $30 million in other funds, to implement this climate technology jobs and economic development strategy.  Around 25 finalists will be named winners in September 2022, and be given four years to implement and conduct the plan.  See https://eda.gov/news/press-releases/2021/12/13/build-back-better-regional-challenge-finalists.htm.

Coalfield’s Brandon Dennison conveys the excitement in West Virginia about the opportunity, “ACT Now is a partnership of Appalachia’s leading cities, anchor institutions, and innovators to transform the future with real jobs in emerging sectors that can help our struggling communities turn around and prosper.”  Dennison was joined on February 7 with keynote speakers and ACT Now partners, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, West Virginia University President Gordon Gee, and Marshall University President Brad Smith.  Senator Joe Manchin addressed the proceeding by video, and representatives of Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Congresswoman Carol Miller, as well as state government leadership, joined in the event.  After a press conference, leaders participated in an roundtable discussion about transforming West Virginia’s economy, including officials from the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Generation West Virginia, Advantage Valley, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, the WV Hive Network, the WV Brownfields Assistance Centers, the Nature Conservancy, Solar Holler, and other key public and private sector leaders.

The ACT Now region of southern West Virginia is recognized by the U.S. Intergovernmental Council on Energy Communities as the most economically distressed and coal-impacted areas in America.  Key ACT Now projects will include:

ReWire Appalachia – “ReWire Appalachia” will increase solar deployments by 10x in WV to $100+ million annually by training a workforce to install 750 solar roofs annually, backed by a new investment fund to help small businesses and non-profits access low-cost capital and incentives for projects.

Abandoned Mines to Sustainable Lands – West Virginia University and the Nature Conservancy will lead the “Abandoned Minelands to Sustainable Lands” program to boost the under-achieving pace of abandoned mine reclamation in WV and Appalachia with new approaches to sustainable reuse of these lands, with an initial goal of 50,000 acres put into reuse including at up to five (5) exciting pilot sites.  A new workforce will transform abandoned mines for productive reuses in solar/wind/geothermal generation, energy storage (including small-scale pumped hydroelectric storage, compressed air energy storage in deep subsurface mines, and thermal electric storage), agro-forestry for carbon capture and for biomass/bioenergy production, healthy food production, rare earth element development, co-located manufacturing, and eco-tourism and outdoor recreation.

Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone (H-BIZ) – H-BIZ is 100 acres of vacant manufacturing brownfields in the heart of downtown Huntington is ready for a new high-tech center for advanced manufacturing, R&D-focused businesses, and other high-wage jobs. Huntington will prepare the site and upgrade its infrastructure to welcome a potential onshore of a new solar PV manufacturing plant; upgrade three historic buildings for tech reuse, and build a new, 50,000-100,000 square feet HBIZ Technology Center to welcome ACT Now technology investments, creating 100+ jobs.

Charleston’s Learning, Innovation, Food & Technology Center (“LIFT Center”) – The City of Charleston, Kanawha County, the WV International Yeager Airport, and regional economic development organization Advantage Valley will transform the 8-acre, 110,000 sq. ft. idled Kanawha Manufacturing plant in a low-income neighborhood in the heart of the city. Kanawha Manufacturing Co. began building equipment for the WV coal mines in 1902, and expanded in the power generation aftermarket in 1960s. It has reached its last generation of owners who now seek a close out strategy. ACT Now will transform this site into the new LIFT Center, which will include a Coalfield jobs learning and training center, along with the Healthy Food Commercial Kitchen & Food Processing Hub and other clean-technology uses.  This will include a new Marshall University Aerospace Battery Institute that will foster the emerging, zero-emissions eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aerospace sector, along with new eVTOL charging stations and pilot training at Yeager Airport and other WV airports.

Climate Technology Training Academy in Logan, WV – Lead Coalfield is partnered with Southern Community & Technology College to transform the former, now-idled “Coal Miner Training Academy” in the City of Logan into a new “Climate Technology Training Center”, along with the first Generation WV tech training center in the southernmost coalfields.

Train a Climate Resilience Workforce –  To achieve the transformation made possible by ACT Now, the region must upgrade and expand its proven workforce development approaches, especially for young jobseekers, dislocated coal workers, minority and persistent poverty communities, and unemployed/underemployed West Virginians.  Generation West Virginia will lead the effort to create green collar technology jobs, the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern WV will train a green building workforce, and Coalfield Development Corporation will train solar technicians, mine reclamation technicians and other skilled employees for the region.

WV Community and Business Resilience Initiative – The Initiative brings together high-impact, West Virginia-based economy builders to work alongside residents to motivate and prepare them so we can ensure no communities will be left behind by the shifts happening today in our country’s energy sector. The initiative builds a 3-prong approach that serves as the foundation for successful economic diversification: people (leadership and business development), planning (strategic and community resilience plans), and places (community and downtown development). The West Virginia Community Development Hub will develop “Community Resilience Plans” for local resilience and prosperous growth, the WV Brownfield Assistance Centers will help transform brownfields and BAD (Blighted, Abandoned & Dilapidated) Buildings for these new economic and job centers, and Advantage Valley and West Virginia Hive will deploy entrepreneurial development programs to accelerate business start-ups and expansions in these sectors.

The ACT Now coalition will create 5,000 new direct full-time and 15,000 indirect jobs, create 50 new businesses, and leverage $250+ million in private sector investment in these climate technology sectors.

The $500,000 Build Back Better Regional Challenge Phase 1 grant which the U.S. Economic Development Administration announced for Coalfield and the ACT Now Coalition on December 15 will support key preparations, due diligence, strategic planning, pre-construction engineering, and other steps to prepare for implementing the projects.  In March 2022, the ACT Now Coalition will submit EDA Phase 2 applications for as much as $75 million in additional grants for construction and implementation of the ACT Now projects over a 48-month period, leveraging $30 million more in non-EDA funding from a variety of sources.

For more information, you can contact ACT Now Coalition, contact Coalfield Development Corporation CEO Brandon Dennison, or Coalfield Director of Communication Ashley Stinnett, at astinnett@coalfield-development.org or 304.544.6740

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For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.