Coalfield Development’s ACT Now Coalition chosen as finalist in EDA’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge

The coalition will compete for up to $100 million to supercharge the Appalachian economy

Coalfield Development Corporation was named by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Coalfield is leading a coalition called ACT (Appalachian Climate Technology) Now. It consists of more than 20 public and private partners working to expand emerging climate resilient sectors of the local economy. The Coalition includes the state’s two largest cities (City of Huntington and the City of Charleston) as well as its two largest universities (West Virginia University and Marshall University), and some of the most innovative community and economic development nonprofits in the state including (among many others) the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Advantage Valley, The Nature Conservancy, and Generation West Virginia. More than 20 employers are supporting the coalition, committing to increase employment and investment in the region.

The coalition will advance to Phase 2 of the nationwide challenge and compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to develop and scale climate resilient industries in central Appalachia. The industries upon which the coalition is focused are intended to improve the local economy and improve environmental sustainability by aligning with global trends towards climate-conscious business practices. ACT Now will create at least 3,000 new jobs by expanding the solar industry, sustainably reclaiming former mine lands, supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses, retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient, and attracting “green” manufacturers to the area.

Coalfield Development’s CEO Brandon Dennison says, “Thank you to the U.S. EDA and our many partners for believing in this bold vision for a new Appalachian economy. Our message to national leaders has been clear and consistent: Appalachia needs major investment, and we need it quickly. This is an impressive response from our federal leaders. We will continue collaborating with our partners with a great sense of urgency. In the face of economic uncertainty caused by continued challenges in the coal industry, and in the face of repeated climate disasters in the form of floods or tornadoes or droughts, time is not our ally. We have to act now for our people, and we have to act now for our planet.”

The regional challenge, facilitated by U.S. EDA, is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades. 

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge aims to supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The outpouring of interest in this program shows the demand for the Build Back Better agenda and the desire to not only create good-paying jobs, but also strengthen our country’s economic resiliency for years down the road.” 

Phase 1 of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to implement a collection of three to eight distinct but related projects in their region. Projects need to be in coordination with industry and community partners and aligned around a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector. 

EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories, and the 60 finalists represent regions that formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs, and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters. Ranging from rural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the United States. 

“We are thrilled to help communities work together—in coalitions of government, nonprofits, academia, the private sector, and others—to craft ambitious and regionally unique plans to rebuild their communities,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “These projects will help revitalize local economies and tackle our biggest challenges related to climate change, manufacturing, supply chains and more. EDA is proud to ignite these plans and help communities nationwide build back better. 

In Phase 2, finalists will compete for significant implementation assistance. EDA will award 20-30 coalitions each up to $100 million. These awards will assist communities in executing ambitious plans to supercharge their regional economies across a variety of strategic growth sectors. 

Dennison does not hold back in describing the scale of this opportunity; “we have before us an opportunity to transform the economic history of Appalachia.”

About the American Rescue Plan Programs
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong
regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue
Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their
efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and
building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.
American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments
across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the
American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit eda.gov/ARPA.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal
economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions
for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of
Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create
jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable
economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit eda.gov.

About Coalfield Development
Coalfield Development is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization headquartered in Wayne, West Virginia
focusing on rebuilding the Appalachian economy through social enterprise creation, job training, and
community-based real-estate development.

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