More than $6 million of a $44.4 million Appalachian Regional Commission investment package designed to expand and diversify the economy in communities affected by a declining coal industry will benefit projects in West Virginia.
The grants, announced on Tuesday, were awarded through the ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative. They will benefit 54 projects in nine states.
“The downturn of the coal market has been devastating to Appalachian communities, especially those that relied on coal extraction and related supply chains for generations,” ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas said in a release announcing the grants.
POWER grants, according to Thomas, “are playing a critical role in supporting these communities as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, and train a next-generation workforce” while promoting resiliency and rekindling a sense of hope.”
More than half of the POWER grant funds awarded will be used to develop business incubators, increase access to capital, and pay for the installation and expansion of broadband infrastructure.
West Virginia’s POWER grants include a $1.5 million award to Sprouting Farms Corporation in Talcott, Summers County, to create a network of agri-development centers in West Virginia and southwest Virginia to meet the needs of new wholesale markets. The grant also funds a training program for agricultural and culinary workers, including individuals in recovery or who were previously incarcerated.
Charleston-based Advantage Valley will receive a $930,000 grant to foster start-up businesses, help existing businesses expand, and offer technical assistance, entrepreneurial training, business mentoring and a capital lending fund to a seven-county area.
The West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont was awarded an $837,970 grant to help new businesses in 42 coal-impacted West Virginia counties launch, expand and connect through access to a network of mentors and professional services. The project also provides access to $1.2 million in investment capital from the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust.
The EdVenture Group Inc. in Morgantown was awarded a $717,166 grant to help career and technical education students receive in-depth entrepreneurial training by developing functioning workplaces in which 1,000 students in Fayette, Calhoun, Gilmer, Lincoln, Mingo and Wyoming counties drive their own learning.
The West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston will receive a $650,000 grant to build a fiber ring around 12 of its buildings, only six of which currently have broadband access, providing support for all voice, data networking and internet access services.
The watershed organization Friends of Cheat was awarded a $50,000 grant to produce a comprehensive trail plan for the newly formed Mountaineer Trail Network — a 10-county bike trail system in north-central West Virginia. The plan will map all existing trails in that area, highlight connection gaps, and identify trail routes to link to area amenities and recreation hubs.
A $50,000 grant was also awarded to the Wayne County Economic Development Authority to develop market-ready business plans for repurposing or recycling thousands of tons of materials currently destined for landfills.
Charleston-based Partners in Health Network was awarded a $49,974 grant to prepare a feasibility study for expanding the Appalachian Pulmonary Health Project to address health care needs in 12 medically underserved counties in West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.
The Regional Research Institute at West Virginia University was awarded a $500,000 grant to provide quarterly updates to Appalachian coal employment data and forecasts, and identify how declines in coal employment affect local education funding.
The Wyoming County Economic Development Authority was awarded $150,000 to recapitalize its revolving loan fund, available to businesses or startups referred by Advantage Valley.