Coalfield communities get about $100 million for development, officials announce

West Virginia coalfield communities are drawing down about $100 million to spur job growth, according to local and national sources.

The bulk is almost $63 million coming to the Appalachian Climate Technology coalition (ACT Now), led by Coalfield Development Corporation through revitalization grants being announced today by the Biden administration.

That is among the highest amounts for 21 recipients across the country.  There was competition among 529 initial applicants and then 60 finalists before today’s recipients were announced.

The ACT Now Coalition will receive an additional $30 million in match and leverage support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Foundation and other philanthropies for its economic revitalization efforts.  Gov. Jim Justice’s administration also pledged an additional $2 million.

So it’s about a hundred million dollars flowing into the 25 West Virginia counties that are part of the coalition.

Joe Manchin

“West Virginia continues to see the benefits of the critical American Rescue Plan investments that drive economic development and create good-paying, long-term jobs, and today’s announcement is great news for our entire state,” stated U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“This is an incredible opportunity and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for years to come.”

President Joe Biden was announcing $1 billion in grants for recipients across the country today. The money comes from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan and is administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.

Gina Raimondo

“As we invest and grow critical industries in the U.S., we want to create industry hubs in diverse communities across the country,” stated U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“These grants will provide critical and historic funding directly to community coalitions to invest in new infrastructure, research and development, and workforce development programs while creating good-paying jobs, supporting workers, and prioritizing equity.”

Applicants are provided money meant to rebuild regional economies, promote inclusive and equitable recovery, and create thousands of jobs with decent wages in industries such as clean energy, next-generation manufacturing, and biotechnology.

The communities granted the awards cover 24 states and will receive between $25 million and $65 million for projects meant to revitalize local industries. The initiative focuses on rural, Tribal and coal communities, as well as communities facing high and persistent poverty.

The projects in West Virginia focus on creating a hub of clean energy and green economy jobs by expanding solar power, implementing sustainable reuse projects on abandoned mine sites, rejuvenating brownfield sites with new facilities equipped to train a diversified, skilled workforce and provide advanced manufacturing capacity.

Another focus is on developing entrepreneurial programs to support employment in environmental sustainability.

The ACT Now Coalition announced the millions of dollars in funding for local projects at 1 p.m. today at the East End Community Park in Charleston.

The coalition spearheaded by the Coalfield Development Corp.  includes the cities of Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia University and Marshall universities, the Nature Conservancy, Yeager Airport, the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, and economic development organizations like the Charleston Area Alliance, Advantage Valley, Generation West Virginia, the West Virginia Community Development Hub and Grow Ohio Valley plus a network of private sector businesses.

Steve Williams

“The ACT Now Coalition proves that we are infinitely stronger in West Virginia when we stand together,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams stated in an announcement of how that city will participate in using the money.

“We now are proud to say our efforts are bolstered by a partnership with the federal government as we embrace the challenges of the digital age.​”

There are several examples already of how portions of the money will be used in West Virginia.

Generation West Virginia, along with a range of partners, will receive $15 million for a workforce development initiative. The collaborative effort is described as building a cohesive system for training, placement, and retention meant to bolster the climate technology industry in West Virginia.

Alex Weld

“This historic investment will enable us and our partners to scale innovative programs that address unique challenges in West Virginia’s workforce,” said Alex Weld, executive director of Generation West Virginia.

Another $13 million will go to transform a 9-acre, 110,000-square-foot Kanawha Manufacturing plant located on Charleston’s East End in Charleston into the “Learning, Innovation, Food & Technology (LIFT) Center.”

Amy Shuler Goodwin

“Charleston now has the opportunity to become the capital of innovation, healthy food production, and green technologies with a skilled workforce to support the Learning, Innovation, Food, and Technology (LIFT) Center,” said Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin.

“The creation of the LIFT Center will transform not only Charleston’s East End, but our entire Capital City. We
are truly grateful to the U.S. Department of Commerce for helping us launch this monumental economic
development endeavor.”

Coalfield Development Corp., a nonprofit organization headquartered in Wayne that focuses on rebuilding the Appalachian economy from the ground up, will receive $7.5 million to partner with Solar Holler and transform the former Black Diamond factory in Huntington’s Westmoreland neighborhood into a new “Mine the Sun” solar training and logistics center.

Brandon Dennison

“For decades, we’ve known the economy of southern West Virginia needs diversification,” said Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development. “Some progress has been made on this goal, but not nearly enough.”

The former American Car and Foundry industrial site, which is owned by the Huntington Municipal Development Authority and is now part of the Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone, or H-BIZ, will receive $8.2 million to set up a new manufacturing hub.

The first anchor tenant of the H-BIZ manufacturing hub will be a new Welding & Robotics Technology Training Center. Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute will oversee the Training Center in partnership with Mountwest Community and Technical College, using robotic welding technology and integrating it into its advanced welding program to make fume extractors, steel welding, and other industrial equipment.

Charlotte Weber

“This state-of-the-art Welding & Robotics Technology Training Center will make training more accessible and provide unbelievable hands-on access to the latest advanced training technologies to meet the needs of area manufacturers, train students for in-demand, good-paying jobs here at home and grow a highly-skilled workforce required to attract new industry to the state,” said Charlotte Weber, longtime Byrd Institute director and now vice president of government relations for Marshall University.

Marshall University’s College of Engineering and Computer Sciences will receive $6 million to develop and staff the Battery Research Institute at a new $17. 5 million center in South Charleston. The college’s dean, David Dampier, said the institute will be developed to support, primarily, the electric aviation industry and the development of batteries that are powerful, resilient and efficient.

The Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia, a program led by Marshall, will receive $750,000 for workforce development programs.  

Additional funding is directed to the Marshall University Brownfields Assistance Center and the annual Small Communities, Big Solutions Conference.  

Brad Smith

“West Virginia stands on the threshold of a great economic reawakening, thanks to an engaged and forward-focused generation of thinkers and doers,” said Marshall University President Brad Smith.

“The synergy being created across our universities, our federal, state, and local levels of government and our private businesses is highlighting the grit and grace of our Appalachian spirit while propelling economic growth for generations to come.”

More funding will transform a long-vacant coal miner training building in downtown Logan into the “Just Transition Center” for bio-based manufacturing and technology job training.

And more will fund the “Sustainable Mine Lands” initiative led by West Virginia University and the Nature Conservancy to transform abandoned mines into renewable energy, clean manufacturing, outdoor economy, and green innovation hubs.

Also, the “Community + Business Resilience Initiative” led by the West Virginia Community Development Hub, the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers, Advantage Valley, and the West Virginia Hive Network aims help communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs get ready for these new green jobs and economic development.

Jim Justice

“West Virginia is becoming a center for innovation, business, and jobs not only in Appalachia, but for the whole nation,” stated Governor Justice. “I am glad that I have been part of the team helping make the Appalachian Climate Technologies initiative a reality. West Virginia is ready to lift off with new industries and jobs.”

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