By Elizabeth E. Payne
On Oct. 26, the White House announced more grants to assist in economic development and job training in areas hardest hit by the decline of the coal industry. This round of POWER Initiative grants awarded nearly $28 million dollars of support for 42 projects in 13 states.
The largest grant, for $3 million, was awarded to Friends of Southwest Virginia for a project intended to increase ecotourism opportunities in a four-county area. Plans include building an Appalachian Trail Center in Damascus and creating a 30-mile multi-use trail from Breaks Interstate Park to Haysi, among other recreational improvements.
The Industrial Development Authority in Wise, Va., received $2.22 million for the “Virginia Emerging Drone Industry Cluster Project,” which aims to attract the drone industry to five counties in Southwest Virginia.
West Virginia received funding for implementing, planning and researching various projects. The City of Bluefield received the state’s largest award with a $2.04 million grant for the “Bluefield Commercialization Station,” a high-tech incubator for new and existing businesses.
Smaller POWER Planning Grants were also awarded to several other projects in the state, including a $105,000 grant that would assess the viability of transforming a former “pill mill” in Williamson, W.Va., into a job training and substance abuse center.
Projects in Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee were also funded, as were numerous projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania and states outside Appalachia.