Community Meeting Launches New Federal Program to Accelerate Business Growth in Southern Counties

Athens, W.Va. -- Congressman Nick J. Rahall co-hosted a special community meeting of the Third District Accelerator today at Concord University. The event brought together leaders from a 10-county region of southern West Virginia to hear about this unique opportunity to accelerate growth in advanced manufacturing and tourism across southern West Virginia.

Small businesses, elected officials, civic and community organizations, educators, entrepreneurs, and interested colleagues learned about the Third District Accelerator’s wide range of new opportunities to accelerate business growth, particularly among companies involved in the region’s tourism and manufacturing industries.

“Creating jobs in tough economic times, demands the wisest use of scare resources, and that’s the genius behind leveraging funding from the new federal partnership,” said Rahall. “Combining existing federal and local assets to leverage jobs means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to connect some critical dots, our assets, technical assistance and training capabilities with our local entrepreneurs.”

Rahall encouraged community leaders in attendance to identify and contact individuals who are considering starting or expanding a small business to learn how the Jobs Accelerator can assist with their job plans.

“Just like the old TV ad jingle suggested, we just need to ‘reach out and touch someone’ who can put this opportunity to work so we can put West Virginians to work,” Rahall said.

The program’s assistance and learning services are open to businesses in ten southern West Virginia counties: Fayette, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers, Logan, Mingo, Wayne, and Wyoming.

The three-year program is funded through a federal Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Grant under a partnership between the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Bobby Lewis, State Director of USDA Rural Development, said the program “will build on the region’s existing strengths by fostering innovation and increasing workforce skill sets.

“This investment in southern West Virginia will give the region an added boost and optimize the potential for economic growth resulting from new initiatives and existing strengths,” Lewis added.

As for next steps, RCBI will continue delivering the technical assistance, skills training and workforce development initiatives necessary to build and expand businesses and economic opportunities across southern West Virginia. RCBI also will continue developing the “go to” electronic network that’s necessary for collaborative efforts by manufacturers, students and businesses across the region. By connecting electronically the job prospects, supply chains and online learning opportunities such as grantsmanship and entrepreneurship workshops, the electronic network will assist businesses and individuals in getting their ideas and products to market.

The Concord University Third District Accelerator is presently collecting expressions of interest in mobile APPs from area businesses. The next step is to solicit formal applications from potential clients, evaluate the applications, and select grantees. The Certificate Program in Tourism Management is anticipated to be ready for public enrollments by August 2013. The Certificate Program in Tourism Management is a 15 credit hour, on-line program with a practical emphasis that can be completed in two semesters.

Also coming up are grant-writing workshops in Raleigh County in April and McDowell County in May, which will be organized by TechConnect. For more information, visit: www.rcbi.org/3rdDistrictAccelerator/overview.pdf

West Virginia partners in the Third District Accelerator include Marshall University, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, Concord University, the Natural Capital Investment Fund, and TechConnect West Virginia. Through these organizations, the Third District Accelerator will provide integrated business support efforts and technical assistance, including grantsmanship workshops, training and workforce development, e-business marketing and entrepreneurial support, and advanced manufacturing tools/capabilities.