U.S. Economic Development Administration Invests Nearly $774,000 to Create New Employment Opportunities in West Virginia Coal Community

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) today announced a $773,750 grant to Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia to establish an incubator facility that will focus on spurring and supporting rural entrepreneurship. It is estimated that this project will create 180 jobs and generate more than $14 million in private investment over the next nine years.

“EDA understands that a great idea can happen anywhere, and the agency is committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in rural communities,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “The EDA investment announced today will provide new opportunities for the people of rural West Virginia and support local efforts to diversify the economy to become more competitive in the global economy.”

EDA’s investment will help fund the construction of a business incubator facility on the first floor of the former Broaddus Hospital on the campus of Alderson Broaddus University. The new Center for Rural Entrepreneurship (CenRE) will serve the seven rural counties of Barbour, Braxton, Randolph, Upshur, Lewis, Gilmer, and Tucker.

“I am excited and extremely thankful for the EDA’s commitment to Alderson Broaddus University as shown by this extraordinary grant,” said Alderson Broadus University President, Dr. Richard Creehan. “This investment will also help jumpstart the entrepreneurial heartbeat inside our students as well as innovative job creators in the region and across West Virginia. CenRE will change the entrepreneurial culture of our great Mountain State, providing low cost state-of-the-art incubator space for budding rural entrepreneurs.”

The incubator space will offer highly professional conference space with teleconference capabilities and technology efficient for 21st century businesses.

“Alderson Broaddus thanks everyone involved in supporting our vision for the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship especially Senators Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito and Congressman David McKinley who have supported and continue to support our vision for economic development in West Virginia,” said Creehan. “I also want to thank Bob Gittler, EDA Economic Development Specialist; the Region VII Planning & Development Council, specifically Shane Whitehair, Executive Director, and Bob Jacobus, Community Development Specialist for their assistance and partnership in this project.”

Alderson Broaddus University is deeply engaged in job creation and business formation. Today’s announcement comes exactly two years to the day in which Congressman McKinley held his Economic Summit on ABU’s campus in 2013. At this town hall meeting, leaders from the private sector, government and economic research discussed how to develop an approach to economic growth strategies and policies to benefit the Mountain State moving forward for the next decade. Last year, the University held a round-table discussion with 33 local business owners of Barbour County where they discussed economic development, strategies and tactics. Current West Virginia House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley was also present and spoke of the importance of small businesses for economic development.

President Creehan has been very active with economic development groups in Barbour County including the Chamber of Commerce, Barbour County Economic Development Authority, and Region VII Planning and Development Council, just to name a few.

CenRE will be a state-of-the-art facility, providing incubation space to tenants and services to resident companies and other companies across the seven county area. CenRE will allow the university to provide a “semi-virtual” business incubator facility to provide additional and alternate job opportunities in a region devastated by the loss of coal-related employment. Additional EDA resources are available for communities impacted by changes to the coal industry through the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative.

This is just one among many efforts EDA is undertaking to promote entrepreneurship in rural regions. EDA recently announced its 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies program, which, in an effort to promote and support inclusion, is expected to award up to $2.5 million of a total $8 million to projects that provide services to rural areas, and applicants who create specific outreach plans to populations and communities that are underrepresented in innovation and entrepreneurship.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (eda.gov)
The Economic Development Administration marks 50 years of public service, leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

ABU is confident this incubator will generate excitement throughout the community and is hopeful that support for this initiative will grow and inspire those interested in rural entrepreneurship. Alderson Broaddus University will make more announcements regarding the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in the next few weeks.