Major initiatives will diversify economy, create jobs, improve health

April 20, 2017

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Initiatives to diversify the economy of southern West Virginia and improve the health of its residents received support from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Announced Thursday at the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), the series of initiatives – in excess of $6 million – target manufacturing, agriculture and health care. The initiatives are the Appalachian Hatchery, Sprouting Farms and Sustainable Employment for Community Health Workers.

“RCBI is eager to deliver initiatives that serve West Virginia,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI Director & CEO. “Supplying innovative tools and training that power advanced manufacturing and agricultural innovation is vital to diversifying business opportunities and creating jobs, which strengthens our economy.” 

Each initiative involves a network of partners including RCBI, Marshall University, community and technical colleges, career-technical schools, economic development groups, health care providers and others.

 APPALACHIAN HATCHERY

The $3.3 million Appalachian Hatchery project is supported by a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and a $430,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The Appalachian Hatchery initiative will boost workforce training opportunities in advanced manufacturing as well as retooling and market diversification efforts that will create new jobs by providing critical technical assistance to local manufacturers.

Through Appalachian Hatchery, RCBI and its partners will help manufacturers, start-ups and other businesses develop new products, broaden existing markets, and train their employees.

Partners include Advantage Valley, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and McDowell County Career and Technical Center.

Business assistance – such as machine retooling and prototype development – will take place at manufacturers’ facilities as well as RCBI’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centers, the Hive in Beckley, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and the McDowell County Career and Technical Center.

To spur entrepreneurship and product development in the southern communities, Appalachian Hatchery will offer an early-stage funding opportunity, Accelerate Appalachia, to provide successful applicants with technical assistance resources for design engineering, prototype development, process/production quality management, and advanced technology skills training.

RCBI, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and McDowell County Career and Technical Center, will offer training programs in Machinist Technology and provide customized training to meet identified company-specific needs.

Targeted counties include Boone, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Putnam, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Webster and Wyoming.

Over a three-year period, the project is estimated to serve 1,100 businesses, create 105 jobs, and retain 235 jobs. The project also will leverage private investment of an estimated $675,000.

SPROUTING FARMS


Sprouting Farms will facilitate the development of a vibrant agricultural industry in seven West Virginia counties.

The project is supported by a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a $120,000 grant from the One Foundation, and a $100,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Lead partners include RCBI, Downstream Strategies, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corp.

The project will educate new farmers, launch farm businesses, and jump-start wholesale market channels, all while encouraging business and farm sustainability.

The project is based at the Sprouting Farms Appalachian Croft and Training Center in Talcott, Summers County. The other targeted counties are Fayette, Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas and Raleigh.

The goal of the project is to create at least 20 new businesses and at least 33 jobs over a multi-year period.

SUSTAINABLE EMPLOYMENT FOR COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS

The $1.3 million ARC grant to the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine is expected to create 26 permanent Community Health Worker jobs to provide services directly to high-risk patients in coal-impacted communities across 10 counties in southeastern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, and central West Virginia.

The project streamlines delivery of healthcare services and improves health outcomes for patients suffering from diabetes, congestive heart failure, and COPD — diseases that are disproportionately common in Appalachia.

In addition to the 26 permanent jobs created, the project will serve 625 patients and leverage $780,000 over the duration of the award. Additional funding is being provided by the Sisters Health Foundation and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Dr. Richard D. Crespo, professor and longtime researcher at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, is leading the grant project.