FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Contact: Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation 304-746-1964
Marshall, RCBI host roundtable discussion to celebrate Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge awards
University to partner in federal jobs initiative
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University and its Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) hosted a roundtable discussion focused on spurring job growth in regional economies. Marshall was selected to host the event, which was convened by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, because the university and RCBI are key players in one of two West Virginia projects recently selected for funding through the federal Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.
At the roundtable held at the RCBI facility in Huntington, Rahall, officials from Marshall and representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development joined local businesses to discuss how federal investments in southern West Virginia can facilitate economic growth and job creation in the region.
Officials joining Rahall for the roundtable included Dr. Stephen J. Kopp, president, Marshall University; Matt Erskine, acting assistant secretary for economic development, U.S. Department of Commerce; Earl Gohl, federal co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission; Bobby Lewis, state director, rural development, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Keith Burdette, secretary, West Virginia Department of Commerce.
Rounding out the panel were representatives of RCBI, Concord University, TechConnect West Virginia, the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, Carbon Fiber Composites, Collaborative for the 21st Century, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the West Virginia Community Development Hub and the National Capital Investment Fund. The moderator was Dr. John Maher, Marshall vice president for research.
Panel participants addressed a number of topics, including the network of partnerships that will carry out the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge projects, the state of entrepreneurship and how the grants will advance other economic development activities in the region.
The two West Virginia projects funded through the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge include the Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator, which will receive $717,985 in federal funds, and the West Virginia Value Chain Cluster Initiative, which was awarded $815,000. The West Virginia initiatives were two of 13 funded from a national pool of 62 applicants.
In the Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator, the Marshall University Research Corporation and RCBI are partnering with TechConnect West Virginia, the Concord University Research and Development Corporation, and the National Capital Investment Fund on an effort to create new jobs in southern West Virginia. The partners will use the grant funding to concentrate on the expansion of manufacturing and tourism by providing technical assistance, workforce development, entrepreneurism support and a wealth of collaborated resources in Fayette, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties.
The second award, for the West Virginia Value Chain Cluster Initiative, is a statewide project that will expand the business and financial capacity of four regional food-related “value chain clusters.” It will deliver a comprehensive and integrated set of hands-on technical assistance and coaching services that will further strengthen management, operational and financial expertise of the clusters. The primary objective is to support the clusters’ ability to increase capacity and extend their impact and the long-term sustainability of their value chains.
The Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is an interagency collaboration combining the resources of the EDA, the USDA, the ARC and the Delta Regional Authority into one funding opportunity focused on regional approaches to rural economic growth. The competition was established last summer to bring greater federal attention and collaboration to the needs of rural communities and spur job creation and economic growth in rural regions across the country.