October 26, 2016

Warner, Kaine Announce More Than $6 Million In Funding For Southwest Virginia Economic Development

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded more than $6.6 million to promote cybersecurity readiness, unmanned aerial systems, and other workforce development programs in southwest Virginia. The funding comes as part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, a multi-agency effort aligning and targeting federal economic and workforce development resources to communities and workers across the Appalachian region. These funds are expected to create or retain 520 direct and indirect jobs throughout the region.

“Wise County put itself on the map in the drone world over a year ago by successfully making the first medical package delivery by drone anywhere in the United States. Today’s grant, which I was proud to strongly support, further bolsters the region as a key hub for unmanned aerial systems,” said Sen. Warner, co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. “We need to continue working together at the federal, state, regional and local levels to build a stronger and more diverse economy, and getting southwest Virginia into the game early-on with growing industries like unmanned systems and cyber will position it to compete in the 21st century economy.”

The $6.6 million in POWER grants will be disbursed to the following four projects:

  • $2,220,000 ARC grant to the Industrial Development Authority in Wise, VA for the Virginia Emerging Drone Industry Cluster Project. ARC funds will be used to position five counties in Southwest Virginia as a national destination for the development of a drone-operator workforce to support the emerging unmanned aerial vehicle industry in the United States. The award will enable Mountain Empire Community College to offer courses that train students, including former coal industry workers, to operate drones and drone sensors to provide commercial and government services—including geospatial surveys, close-up inspections of fixed structures, and mapping. The award will train 64 new workers, leverage $15,000,000 in additional investment, and enable a private aerospace company in the region to perform work on a major contract, thereby creating 210 new direct and indirect jobs.

•    $1,420,219 ARC grant to Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Cedar Bluff, VA for the Southwest Virginia Regional Cybersecurity Initiative. The initiative brings together three colleges in Southwest Virginia—SWCC, Mountain Empire Community College (MECC), and University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVa-Wise)—and aims to position this seven county southwestern Virginia area as a regional hub for the cybersecurity industry. Specific activities will include creating a certification/credential program aligned with industry needs and National Security Agency guidelines; providing support services to cybersecurity start-up companies that locate to the region; and expanding UVa-Wise’s existing bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity through an accelerator space in which cybersecurity companies can co-locate research and development activities. Additional funding for the project is being provided by the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.   The project will train 161 new workers and retain 110 jobs.

  • $3,000,000 ARC grant to Friends of Southwest Virginia in Abingdon, VA for the Building Appalachian Spring: Growing the Economy of Southwest Virginia project. This comprehensive project will significantly enhance the outdoor recreation industry as an economic driver in a four-county region in southwestern Virginia. ARC funds will be used to develop four access points to the New River that strategically link the river to nearby communities’ hospitality and tourism services; construct a 4,000 square foot Gateway Center to the High Knob Recreation Area – providing visitors with more centralized access to numerous nearby recreation assets; build an Appalachian Trail Center in downtown Damascus; and create a 30-mile, multi-use trail connecting Breaks Interstate Park directly to downtown Haysi’s business district.  The project will increase travel expenditures in project locations by $30 million over the next five years, help create 60 new businesses and 200 new jobs, and is supported by funding from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.
  • $11,108 ARC grant to Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network in Abingdon, VA to provide grant writing assistance to raise funds for the creation of a regional brew cluster that will strengthen Virginia’s agriculture industry and tourism in the region. The project will build off of the extensive network cultivated by the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation.

In August, Sens. Warner and Kaine each contacted ARC to strongly urge support of the grant application by the Wise Industrial Development Authority.