Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Officials from Marshall and Concord universities yesterday joined the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall to announce federal funding of $500,000 over five years to establish the West Virginia EDA University Center.
A partnership among Marshall, Concord and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI), the center will provide direct business and technical assistance to entrepreneurs, small businesses and manufacturers, and will primarily serve the southernmost 17 counties in West Virginia.
Rahall and the deputy assistant secretary, Matt Erskine, hosted an event yesterday afternoon on Concord’s campus in Athens to announce the funding.
The goal of the EDA University Center will be to help increase business productivity, spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and improve long-term regional competitiveness and economic diversification of industries across the state. Outreach and marketing activities to engage entrepreneurs and small businesses will be developed, and the center will host events to bring entrepreneurs together with regional industry leaders for networking and exchanging ideas.
Dr. John M. Maher, Marshall vice president for research, and Charlotte Weber, RCBI director, attended the announcement, along with Dr. Kendra S. Boggess, Concord’s interim vice president and academic dean.
Marshall’s Center for Business and Economic Research will collect and analyze data about talent pools, workforce readiness and entrepreneurial pathways. These data will be used to help identify regional talent pools, industrial clusters and areas of economic opportunity. RCBI will help provide customized visualization, prototyping and advanced machining training and services for small businesses.
Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp applauded yesterday’s announcement, saying, “Marshall University is pleased to partner with Concord University and the Robert C. Byrd Institute in this exciting initiative to connect small businesses and entrepreneurs in southern West Virginia with the resources that can help new and existing business enterprises flourish. We acknowledge with gratitude the EDA funding that will allow us to launch this new center, and we salute Congressman Rahall for his unwavering support for this project.”
Maher said, “Marshall University and Concord University have the capacity to support small business development projects within a wide range of disciplines—from engineering and biomedicine, to education, to recreation and tourism. These resources, together with the manufacturing expertise available at RCBI, will provide a valuable base for the technical and business assistance to be provided through the center.”
Weber said, “RCBI is thrilled to be part of this important West Virginia partnership. America’s diverse manufacturing community spurs innovation and discovery, and builds healthy, wealthy communities. Through this EDA grant, RCBI will provide greater emphasis on manufacturing diversification, entrepreneurship and start-up businesses. At RCBI we have the high-tech tools and training necessary to turn today’s dreams into tomorrow’s products.”
At yesterday’s event, Rahall thanked the EDA for its financial support of the project and praised its leadership role as the federal agency charged with producing jobs for the nation’s distressed economy.
“Our world is a growing, complex and global economy, and advances in technology can create tectonic shifts overnight in economic outlooks,” said Rahall. “Mean, lean agencies—with a sharp focus on creating jobs that can grow long-term regional economies in that dynamic market—need to keep making the kind of investment we are welcoming today.”
Erskine was on hand to represent EDA’s top administrator, John Fernandez, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development.
In a prepared statement, Fernandez said, “Marshall University, Concord University and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing will play an important, collaborative role in supporting the new center’s efforts to drive regional economic and job growth.”
Following the funding announcement, Rahall convened a roundtable discussion with regional businesses to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the current economy. Participants in the roundtable included representatives from Blue Smoke Salsa, Concord’s Hospitality Sector Program, Custom Manufacturing, the Development Authority of Mercer County, Eigenweg USA Inc., Frontier Communications, Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, Hughes Supply, ManTech Inc., M-Rock Inc., New River Community and Technical College, Princeton-Mercer County Chamber Of Commerce, Region I Planning and Development Council, Smith Services Inc. and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
Contact: Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964
Marshall, Concord working to bring jobs to SWV (WV Public Radio, Nov. 17, 2011)
Driving Innovation and Economic Growth in West Virginia and Virginia (U.S. Department of Commerce, Nov. 9, 2011)