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Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia logo

Ten higher education institutions across West Virginia recently formed an alliance to promote the economic development of communities across the state’s southern coalfields.

Dubbed the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia, the group hopes to improve the economy of a 21-county region.

The group has a broad mission, which, according to a news release, is “to better connect the educational resources and workforce training offered in Southern West Virginia to promote the region, eliminate redundancies and share best practices, improve the quality of life for area residents, create jobs and revitalize southern communities.”

The group announced its plan last week during a press conference in Gov. Jim Justice’s Cabinet room. The group plans to follow a 10-step plan that includes things like increasing broadband access and identifying industrial sites for new business to access in the southern part of the state.

“The Alliance’s main goal is to learn about existing resources in regard to education services, workforce training, the talent pool, available business sites, and willing partners in Southern West Virginia, and to promote and utilize these resources in a meaningful way that will create jobs, enhance the state’s business sector and competitive edge, ensure workers have access to the latest training and technology, build long-lasting partnerships and, ultimately, revitalize small Southern West Virginia communities,” according to a news release announcing the endeavor.

Sara Payne Scarbro, associate vice president for external engagement at the Marshall University Research Corporation, is helping oversee the alliance. She said the group wants to create jobs. When asked how the colleges would create jobs, Scarbro said, “It’s a process.”

Scarbro said presidents of the colleges would pull together resources to launch new initiatives.

The 10 institutions of higher education included in the alliance are Bluefield State College, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Concord University, Marshall University, Mountwest Community & Technical College, New River Community and Technical College, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia State University, and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

Leaders from each institution are represented in the group.

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert, chairman of the alliance, said it’s “time to come together to solve our own challenges.”

“The creation of this Alliance is very significant for West Virginia because our southern higher education institutions are showing our state’s leaders that we are committed to economic development, to partnering on projects that grow jobs and grow momentum,” Gilbert said in a news release. “Southern West Virginia has many challenges, but we are sending a strong, clear message that we are invested, we care and we will make a positive impact by working together.”

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