WASHINGTON, DC & CHARLESTON, WV – President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Senator Joe Manchin announced on Friday, September 2 that the U.S. Economic Development Administration has chosen the Appalachian Climate Technologies Coalition (“ACT Now Coalition”) for a package of grant awards totaling $62.8 million, leveraged with another $26 million in match from non-federal sources, for economic development projects in southern West Virginia coalfield communities. The ACT Now Coalition is one of only 21 winners nationwide. The award is part of the highly competitive “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” a $1 billion national challenge organized by U.S. EDA to build new economic development approaches and good-paying jobs in economically distressed regions. See https://eda.gov/arpa/build-back-better/ and www.Coalfield-Development.org, After the White House announcement by video feed, West Virginia leaders of the ACT Now Coalition gathered in East End Commuity Park in the State Capitol of Charleston to hold a press conference celebrating this announcement.
“West Virginia continues to see the benefits of the critical American Rescue Plan investments that drive economic development and create good-paying, long-term jobs, and today’s announcement is great news for our entire state,” said Senator Manchin. “It is a testament to our hardworking fellow West Virginians and forward-thinking communities that West Virginia was one of just 21 recipients of the EDA’s Regional Challenge program. I’m pleased the EDA is investing nearly $63 million in communities across southern West Virginia to strengthen local economies, support our energy industries and expand job opportunities. This is an incredible opportunity and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for years to come.”
The lead applicant of the ACT Now Coalition was Coalfield Development, a community-based not-for-profit organization based in southern West Virginia. Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison lauded the collaboration of the coalition. “This is an historic coming together of entities which have historically viewed one another as competitors.”
ACT Now includes our two largest universities, our two largest cities, more than 50 private businesses, our most innovative non-profit organizations (including the WV Community Development Hub, Generation WV, WV Hive, Advantage Valley, The Nature Conservancy) and many others.
Dennison says this can be different from past grants (and smaller grants) to help southern West Virginia. “For decades, we’ve known the economy of southern West Virginia needs diversification. Some progress has been made on this goal, but not nearly enough. ACT Now constitutes a tangible opportunity to take a major leap forward in this generational challenge to become a vibrant, growing, diversified economy. In the wake of continued coal-job losses, nothing could be more important for our region.”
Dennison added, “Welcome to the new Appalachian economy! ACT Now means nearly $100 million invested in renewable energy, sustainable mine land reclamation, clean manufacturing, and entrepreneurship throughout our hills and hollows. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for transformational progress in our communities. I am deeply grateful to the Biden Administration and all our partners for this boost to our bottom-up endeavors.”
The federal grant award will support eight (8) separate ACT Now projects to:
- Transform a historic factory in Charleston into the “Learning, Innovation, Food & Technology (LIFT) Center”;
- Revitalize the long-closed ACF Industries factory complex in Huntington into the “Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone” (H-BIZ) anchored by the RCBI Welding & Robotics Technology Training Center;
- Redevelop the polluted former Black Diamond factory in west Huntington (Wayne County) into a new solar logistics and job training hub for the Solar Holler company;
- Transform a long-vacant coal miner training building in downtown Logan into the “Just Transition CENTER” for bio-based manufacturing and technology job training;
- Launch “GROW Now” (Growing Resilience Opportunities for Workers) to train a workforce in digital technologies and green-collar sectors led by non-profit Generation West Virginia and the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern WV at Marshall University;
- Establish the “Sustainable Mine Lands” initiative led by West Virginia University and the Nature Conservancy to transform abandoned mines into renewable energy, clean manufacturing, outdoor economy, and green innovation hubs;
- Fund the “Community + Business Resilience Initiative” led by the WV Community Development Hub, the WV Brownfields Assistance Centers, Advantage Valley, and the WV Hive Network to help communities, small businesses, and entrepreneurs become climate resilient and leverage new opportunities in changing energy markets; and
- Launch the “RePower Appalachia” initiative led by Coalfield Development Corporation and the Central Appalachia Network’s Solar Finance Fund to expand renewable energy projects throughout the region.
ACT Now will receive tens of millions of dollars in match and leverage support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Just Transition Fund and other philanthropies and corporate donors. A large portion of match was also provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission. “This would not have been possible without ARC,” Dennison says.
The U.S. Congress passed and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which provided $1 billion to the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a major economic development initiative. EDA launched the “Build Back Better Regional Challenge” competition, inviting regions from across America to put forward the most innovative ideas for economic renewal. From the 529 applications EDA received in October 2021, 60 finalists emerged in December 2021. Coalfield Development was pleased to be a challenge finalist, CEO Brandon Dennison went to the White House with top national leadership, and the ACT Now Coalition and the other finalists each received $500,000 grants to get their economic revitalization plans ready for implementation. In March 2022, the ACT Now Coalition submitted their proposals, and on September 2 the White House announced that WV’s Act Now had won. The coalition is deeply grateful to the EDA Economic Development Representative for West Virginia Tracey Rowan, a stalwart for economic progress in WV who worked closely with the ACT Now Coalition throughout the Build Back Better Challenge process – and has helped our organizations grow our capacity to handle this challenge through many years of her support.
ACT Now Coalition leaders and supporters are thrilled at this historic opportunity:
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin
“West Virginia continues to see the benefits of the critical American Rescue Plan investments that drive economic development and create good-paying, long-term jobs, and today’s announcement is great news for our entire state. It is a testament to our hardworking fellow West Virginians and forward-thinking communities that West Virginia was one of just 21 recipients of the EDA’s Regional Challenge program. I’m pleased the EDA is investing nearly $63 million in communities across southern West Virginia to strengthen local economies, support our energy industries and expand job opportunities. This is an incredible opportunity and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of this funding for years to come.”
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice
“West Virginia is becoming a center for innovation, business, and jobs not only in Appalachia, but for the whole nation. I am glad that I have been part of the team helping make the Appalachian Climate Technologies initiative a reality. West Virginia is ready to lift off with new industries and jobs!”
WVU President Gordon Gee
“We are in a unique moment in history, and thanks to this new federal support for the ACT Now coalition, we are poised to truly transform economic opportunities for communities across the state,” West Virginia University President Gordon Gee said. “This is a crucial component of our land-grant mission at West Virginia University, and I join our partners with excitement and a renewed commitment to move forward together in shared purpose to create a more vibrant future for West Virginia.”
Marshall University President Brad Smith
“Marshall University is privileged to serve with the amazing team who will bring innovation in research, training and workforce development to the Mountain State. West Virginia stands on the threshold of a great economic reawakening, thanks to an engaged and forward-focused generation of thinkers and doers. The synergy being created across our universities, our federal, state and local levels of government and our private businesses is showcasing the grit and grace of our Appalachian spirit while propelling economic growth for generations to come. West Virginia is quickly becoming the demonstration project for the rest of the world. Our time has come!”
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin
“Charleston now has the opportunity to become the capital of innovation, healthy food production, and green technologies with a skilled workforce to support the Learning, Innovation, Food, and Technology (LIFT) Center. The creation of the LIFT Center will transform not only Charleston’s East End, but our entire Capital City. We are truly grateful to the U.S. Department of Commerce for helping us launch this monumental economic development endeavor.”
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams
“The ACT Now Coalition proves that we are infinitely stronger in West Virginia when we stand together. Because Coalfield Development is partnering with the cities of Huntington and Charleston, Marshall and West Virginia universities and so many other organizations working for positive change, Southern West Virginia is becoming an economic force that is prepared to compete in the ever-changing world market. We now are proud to say our efforts are bolstered by a partnership with the federal government as we embrace the challenges of the digital age.”
Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti
“What an great and exciting day for southern West Virginia. The people of Logan and this state are strong and hardworking, but the economy has been a struggle over these past decades for many of us. Logan is thrilled that a former coal miner training building in our downtown will now become a center for technology, innovation, and family wage jobs.
WV Community Development Hub Executive Director Stephanie Tyree
“The WV Community Development Hub is proud to be a project lead in the ACT Now Coalition, and thrilled that the US Economic Development Administration is investing in this innovative, transformative Coalition.” said Stephanie Tyree, Executive Director of the WV Community Development Hub. “The Build Back Better Regional Challenge investment builds on the strengths of our partnerships, and the strength that is inherent in southern West Virginia. We are ready to get to work with our project partners to help communities invest in themselves and their future through entrepreneurial development, long-term planning for resilience and growth, brownfields remediation, and main street revitalization of our beautiful small towns.”
Generation WV Executive Director Alex Weld
“We are thrilled that U.S. EDA recognizes the importance of our place-based workforce development strategies here in West Virginia. This historic investment will enable us and our partners to scale innovative programs that address unique challenges in West Virginia’s workforce. We’re incredibly proud and also eager to continue this great work with the support of the EDA.” — Alex Weld, Executive Director, Generation West Virginia and ACT Now workforce development project lead
Central Appalachian Solar Finance Fund Director Autumn Long
“The Appalachian Solar Finance Fund is thrilled to play a role in the ACT Now Coalition’s historic investment in climate resilience,” said Autumn Long, Appalachian Solar Finance Fund Director. “Our team is excited to help catalyze more solar development in southern West Virginia and the surrounding coalfield region as part of this innovative coalition.”
Charleston Area Alliance President & CEO Nicole Christian
“The Charleston Area Alliance is incredibly proud to be part of this truly historic occasion,” said Nicole Christian, President & CEO, Charleston Area Alliance. “We are so excited to be part of the ACT Now Coalition and be selected as one of the projects for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. It proves that the leaders of these communities are committed to creating a bright future for West Virginia. Through the Alliance’s leadership on the LIFT Center project, the Charleston area will help to transform our traditional assets into tomorrow’s resources which will create the necessary tools and opportunities for our future.”
The Nature Conservancy’s Eriks Brolis
We couldn’t be more pleased to support the work of the ACT Now coalition and advance the former minelands to sustainable lands project component with WVU, Coalfield Development and other partners. This funding from the EDA will unlock tremendous investment in West Virginia and the Central Appalachians to continue to step boldly into the new energy economy and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation – improving the livelihood and well-being of West Virginia communities, while also helping the nation and the world to tackle climate change.
WV Brownfields Assistance Centers, Directors Carrie Staton and George Carico
“The WV Brownfields Assistance Centers have been working throughout southern WV assisting communities in redeveloping brownfield properties for new economic development and community vibrancy. The ACT Now project is destined to be an economic game changer that will re-invent communities and transform the entire region. Our Centers are excited to play a role in this major transformation.”
Additional Project Details:
The ACT Now region of southern WV is recognized by the U.S. Intergovernmental Council on Energy Communities as the most economically distressed and coal-impacted area in America. Key ACT Now projects will include:
- HUNTINGTON’S BROWNFIELDS INNOVATION ZONE (H-BIZ) – H-BIZ is 100 acres of vacant manufacturing brownfields in the heart of downtown Huntington that is ready for redevelopment as a green manufacturing and technology innovation center. H-BIZ will be anchored by a new RCBI Welding & Robotics Technology Training Center located in a re-purposed, century-old factory building, and a new Marshall University baseball stadium, along with other technology and manufacturing tenants.
- CHARLESTON’S LEARNING, INNOVATION, FOOD & TECHNOLOGY CENTER (“LIFT CENTER”)– The Charleston Area Alliance and the City of Charleston, Marshall University, Coalfield Development Corporation, the regional economic development organization Advantage Valley, and private sector companies will transform the 9-acre, 110,000 sq. ft. Kanawha Manufacturing plant in a low-income neighborhood in the heart of the city, into the LIFT Center. LIFT will include the new “Marshall Green Battery Institute” to provide research & development on electric batteries for clean vehicles, zero-emissions airplanes, and renewable energy storage; a Coalfield Development job training center; a food hub run by Refresh Appalachia; and private investment by innovative companies including Parthian Battery Solutions (electric battery repurposing), BETA Air (zero-emissions, electric vertical takeoff and landing airplanes, which will start using Yeager International Airport), Dickinson Renewables (launched by WV’s oldest company), and Edelen Renewables (an Appalachian innovator in solar projects).
- Wayne County’s “BLACK DIAMOND” Hub for Sustainable Economic Development – Coalfield Development will revitalize the long-closed and badly polluted Black Diamond Factory in West Huntington into a hub for solar logistics and job training run by Solar Holler, and a headquarters for expanding solar companies, recycling and reuse businesses, and bio-based manufacturing.
- LOGAN’S JUST TRANSITION CENTER (CLIMATE AND EQUITY NEXUS FOR TRANSFORMATIVE ECONOMIC REVITALIZATION) – Coalfield Development is partnered with Southern Community & Technology College to transform the former, now-idled “Coal Miner Training Academy” in the City of Logan into a new “Just Transition CENTER” which will provide job training in biobased manufacturing and other skills from Coalfield Development, and digital technology training from Generation West Virginia.
- FORMER MINES TO SUSTAINABLE MINE LANDS – WVU and the Nature Conservancy will lead a program to boost the under-achieving pace of abandoned mine reclamation in WV and Appalachia with new approaches to sustainable reuse of these lands. A new workforce will transform closed mines into productive reuses in solar/wind/geothermal generation, energy storage, agro-forestry for carbon capture and for biomass/bioenergy production, healthy food production, rare earth element development, manufacturing, and eco-tourism & outdoor recreation.
- GROW NOW – GROWING RESILIENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE WV WORKFORCE – To achieve the transformation made possible by ACT Now, the region must expand its proven workforce development approaches, especially for young jobseekers, dislocated coal workers, minority and persistent poverty communities, and unemployed/underemployed West Virginians. Generation West Virginia will lead the effort to create digital and green collar technology jobs, and the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern WV will train a green building workforce.
- COMMUNITY + BUSINESS RESILIENCE INITIATIVE – West Virginia coalfield communities will not be able to take advantage of sector diversification and growth without significant capacity building, strategic planning, downtown revitalization, and site and brownfields preparation in a strategically aligned way. The West Virginia Community Development Hub will provide technical assistance and planning support to communities to prepare for new economic opportunities, the WV Brownfield Assistance Centers will help transform brownfields and BAD (Blighted, Abandoned & Dilapidated) Buildings for repurposing as new economic and job centers, and Advantage Valley and the West Virginia HIVE Network will deploy “GREENER WV” entrepreneurial development programs for foster business start-ups and expansions in these sectors.
- RE-POWER APPALACHIA INITIATIVE –“Re-power Appalachia” will increase solar (and other renewable energy) deployments by 10x in WV to $100+ million annually by training a workforce to install 750 solar roofs annually, backed by a new investment fund to help small businesses and non-profits access low-cost capital and incentives for projects.
The ACT Now coalition will create 5,000 new direct full-time and 15,000 indirect jobs, create 125 new businesses, and leverage $250+ million in private sector investment in these green sectors in southern West Virginia and beyond