When it comes to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, cities and towns in West Virginia are in a better place to build back better than many other communities in the country and a group of state agencies and organizations are out to prove it.
The Resilient West Virginia coalition is a finalist in the United States Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge thanks to a proposal to leverage West Virginia resources and workforce talent to advance the country’s national security and economic interests.
So, what is Resilient West Virginia and why is it trying to win the Build Back Better Regional Challenge? Read on to learn more about this important effort.
What is Resilient West Virginia?
The Resilient West Virginia coalition is a group of state agencies and organizations working together to create opportunities for all West Virginians. The goal? To build momentum to secure the future for Appalachia. The group is made up of the following agencies:
- West Virginia Department of Economic Development
- West Virginia Small Business Development Center
- West Virginia Community and Technical College System
- U.S. Research Impact Alliance
- The Robert C. Byrd Institute at Marshall University
- High Technology Foundation
- Mingo County Redevelopment Authority
- Bluefield West Virginia Economic Development Authority
What Is the Build Back Better Regional Challenge?
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is part of the American Rescue Plan and is designed to help communities around the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.
More than 500 regional coalitions applied to be part of the challenge, which has $1 billion up for grabs. Each coalition submitted a proposal to develop or scale regional industry sectors, develop and train their workforce and build resilient economies.
The challenge has two phases and the Resilient West Virginia coalition is one of 60 phase one finalists. During the second phase, 20-30 coalitions will be awarded $25-100 million to implement their projects.
What Projects Are Being Proposed By Resilient West Virginia?
West Virginia is competing for funding to support coal communities. The Resilient West Virginia proposal seeks funding to support the growth of the state’s advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, advanced air mobility, and data analytics industries by building on West Virginia’s national security and economic security cluster.
The Resilient West Virginia coalition, led by the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, proposes to create a national security and economic security growth cluster in West Virginia’s southern and central energy communities, capitalizing on the skills of many of the region’s veterans to support the sector. If provided an implementation grant, the coalition proposes to execute six projects:
- Increasing supply chain resilience by developing West Virginia’s advanced manufacturing base
- Investing in the critical physical infrastructure needed to create shovel-ready sites
- Implementing targeted workforce training aligned to the needs of advanced manufacturing companies
- Advancing our cybersecurity and data analytics sectors with a focus on developing an inclusive talent pipeline
- Creating an advanced air mobility observatory lab in southern West Virginia
- Supporting veteran-owned and tech-based entrepreneurs in our innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem
In all of these focus areas, the Resilient West Virginia proposal is centered on engaging traditionally underserved populations and communities in diverse and inclusive education and workforce training for advanced manufacturing,cybersecurity, advanced air mobility, and data analytics jobs.
What Happens If Resilient West Virginia Wins?
If the Resilient West Virginia proposal is selected as a finalist, the state will receive a transformational investment to diversify West Virginia’s economy. These funds will be used to create near-term economic opportunities in high-growth, high-wage sectors and set up the state’s workforce, small businesses and manufacturers for long-term sustainability.
While some counties in West Virginia are growing and diversifying their economies, many areas around the state, especially in the south, are struggling.
“You cannot imagine the dedication and tenacious activity from the West Virginia Department of Economic Development to help citizens procure these funds to make those generational and foundational changes that will sustain economic growth in West Virginia for generations to come.”
If awarded, funding from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge will help West Virginia make investments in communities that need it most.
Call To Action
To learn more about the Resilient West Virginia proposal and coalition members, visit westvirginia.gov/ResilientWV.