RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Southwest Virginia Community College will receive a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide fast-track reemployment services directly to displaced coal miners.
The funding is awarded through the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant program. An additional $1.9 million in funding was awarded to projects that will benefit communities in Virginia and other states. The $1.4 million award will fund the Retraining Energy Displaced Individuals (REDI) Center for Dislocated Coal Miners program at Southwest Virginia Community College.
“The Appalachian region requires a focused approach to workforce development so that we can increase access to economic opportunities for residents in this important part of our Commonwealth," said Governor McAuliffe. “The POWER grant specifically focuses on areas with significant economic need, providing support for critical workforce development programs and efforts to attract businesses to the region. Through these investments, we can effectively build a new economic strategy to benefit the Appalachian community, which will further bolster our work to build a new Virginia economy.”
The REDI program will equip displaced coal miners with the necessary skills to get back to work in a high-demand field, earning wages comparable to their previous employment. Through an intensive, accelerated program of coursework, workers can obtain credentialed skills in as little as four months, rather than the more traditional training periods of a year or more. Training will be focused on three sectors with local employment opportunities, including advanced manufacturing, construction and health technology. The program will certify 165 new trainees over the life of the award and will be supported by funding from the Thompson Charitable Fund and the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
The POWER Initiative is a multi-agency effort aligning and targeting federal economic and workforce development resources to communities and workers affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
“Through this project, we will see new employment opportunities for a region that is diversifying its sources of economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “As we build the new Virginia economy, it is important that we make sure all areas of Virginia receive support that will promote economic development. These grants offer necessary funding to a Center that provides valuable resources to untapped talent throughout Southwest Virginia and the Appalachian region.”
In addition to the REDI program, Virginia is also part of two other successful grants, including Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor and the Cool and Connected Initiative led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Appalachian Sustainable Development is a five-state, 43-county project that will develop a coordinated local foods distribution network throughout Central Appalachia and connect established and emerging producers in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky to wholesale distribution markets. The Cool and Connected Initiative will assist 10 Appalachian coal-impacted communities in obtaining broadband service to revitalize small town main streets and promote economic development. Participating communities will receive technical assistance for strategic planning, as well as initial implementation support for the first steps of their plans. Communities participating are located in Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The Appalachian Regional Commission and the Economic Development Administration awarded nearly $38.8 million in POWER grants for 29 large-scale projects to help Appalachian communities negatively affected by changes in the coal economy, including mining, coal-fired power plants, and related transportation, logistics, and manufacturing supply chains, to strengthen their economies and workforces. These investments are anticipated to attract an additional $66.9 million in leveraged investments to the Appalachian Region, and create and retain more than 3,400 jobs.