By October 12, 2017 Read More →

Federal grants announced for WV projects to help coalfield communities

By MAX GARLAND

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Eight West Virginia projects will receive a total of about $8.2 million in funding from the federal Economic Development Administration as part of a new initiative to support economic development in areas hit by the coal industry’s decline, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Wednesday.

The 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative will distribute $30 million to back 35 projects in 15 states, according to a news release. The funding for West Virginia projects looks to address a variety of needs, from infrastructure improvements and a facility expansion to bolstering staff and purchasing equipment.

The Randolph County Development Authority will receive $2.5 million to expand Armstrong Flooring in Beverly, the release and a separate announcement by Armstrong Flooring said. The 85,000-square foot expansion of the solid wood floor manufacturing facility will allow the company to store finished products at the plant rather than offsite, the company said.

“We are looking forward to this expansion that will improve and streamline our distribution capabilities at the Beverly plant, which manufactures hardwood flooring to ship throughout the U.S.,” said Dominic Rice, senior vice president of global operations and manufacturing, in the company release.

The Flatwoods Canoe Run Public Service District will receive $1.478 million to make water infrastructure improvements for the Weyerhaeuser manufacturing facility in Braxton County, the EDA release said. The forest products company has roughly 164 full-time employees.

The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority will receive $1.392 million to provide water service to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and the “Twisted Gun Gap development,” the release said. Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, said that project will focus on private development, such as cabins and campgrounds, surrounding the Twisted Gun Golf Club in Mingo County to be connected with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.

“Public utilities like water and electricity are such an important part of attracting new lodging to the [Twisted Gun Gap] area,” he said.

According to the release, other West Virginia entities to receive funding are:

— Pierpont Community and Technical College in Fairmont. The college will receive $767,442 to help the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center purchase equipment and hire additional employees to aid the the expansion of Bombardier’s West Virginia Air Center in Bridgeport.

— The Center for Applied Research and Technology in Bluefield. It will receive $750,000 to provide industrial and technical assistance at the Bluefield Commercialization Station, a program to develop and grow area businesses.

— West Virginia University. The university will receive $747,123 to help fund services at its entrepreneurial resource center LaunchLab, which focuses on the creation of new products.

— TechConnectWV in South Charleston. The organization provides various programs to advance the STEM sector in West Virginia.

— The Business Development Council of the Northern Panhandle in Weirton. It will receive $300,000 to create a redevelopment plan for “former steel facilities and underutilized industrial land,” the release said.

According to the EDA, the initiative is similar to the POWER initiative headed by the federal Appalachian Regional Commission, but has more funding available. The future of the ARC remains up in the air, as President Donald Trump called for the agency to be eliminated in his proposed 2018 budget.

The ARC said in a news release last month that that it has invested more than $94 million in U.S. communities affected by the coal decline since 2016 through multiple rounds of funding. In the first round of POWER grants, announced in August 2016, West Virginia received more than $16 million.

 Reach Max Garland at max.garland@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @MaxGarlandTypes on Twitter.

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