“Imagine West Virginia”

Our CEO Brandon Dennison was recently honored as the recipient of the prestigious The Heinz Awards for Technology, the Economy and Employment. Given annually by the Heinz Family Foundation, The Heinz Awards each year recognize outstanding individuals for their innovative contributions. In accepting the award, Brandon described the transformational vision he and Coalfield Development has for Appalachia in creating a more sustainable economy.

“Thank you to everybody for being here, for celebrating with us. Thank you to my wife who’s home with a sick baby. Thank you to the entire Coalfield Development staff, a truly incredible team. And thank you, especially, to the Heinz Family and to Theresa for this very special occasion.”

“Imagine West Virginia isn’t known as ‘Coal Country’ or ‘Trump Country’ but is instead known as ‘Climate Resilience Country.’ I see us becoming this. And I don’t just mean off in the future. I see this transformation happening every day through my work with Coalfield Development, which incubates social enterprises that put people back to work and diversify coal economies. Our crew members have the hands-on skills to build, to make, to grow, to fix. As our country mobilizes to mitigate the effects of climate change, these are the skills we will need to retrofit buildings, install solar systems, reclaim mine-sites, and make manufacturing more environmentally sustainable.”

“Rebuilding an entire economy from the ground up is a daunting task, but that’s what we need in central Appalachia. The challenges are many, but I do not want you to feel sorry for us. I do not want to tell you of problems and liabilities. I want to tell you of a place and people having much to offer our country and our planet. We are an under-invested in asset. Our coal and gas and timber has been tapped, but the true potential of our courageous and creative people has not. Wealth has been extracted out, but our communities have not been invested in. With the right investments and with your genuine belief in us, we could lead the fight against climate change and offer unique value to global movements for sustainability, justice, equity, and opportunity for all.”

“None of this is to discount the deep pain and suffering we’re experiencing in Appalachia right now. Coal’s decline has directly contributed to a devastated ecology, an employment collapse, and an addiction crisis. But a transition away from fossil fuels is happening, and it must happen. And despite the sense of loss our communities feel, the gaping hole left by coal has allowed new space for new green shoots of innovation to grow up. A transformational vision for a new economic reality is taking root. Our businesses and the people who staff them are proving this daily. We are shifting from extraction to investment, victimhood to agency, generational poverty to generational opportunity. The country and the world need us to succeed.”

Brandon Dennison – “Imagine West Virginia”

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