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RCBI, partners launching $1.3M jobs initiative

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) is one of five partners launching a $1.3 million effort to create new jobs in southern West Virginia.

The partnership received a three-year $717,985 Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge grant as part of a $15 million combined funding initiative sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority. The partners’ application was one of 13 chosen from 62 submitted. The partners will match the federal money with more than $600,000 of in-kind resources.

“All of us at RCBI are thrilled to be a key player in this important initiative bolstering the regional economy and creating welcome new jobs for hard-working West Virginians,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI Director and CEO.

The partnership consists of RCBI, the Marshall University Research Corporation, TechConnect West Virginia, the Concord University Research and Development Corporation, and the National Capital Investment Fund.

Marshall President Stephen J. Kopp said the initiative offers “great promise in terms of fostering greater economic development, and, of course, more jobs means more opportunities for our graduates right here in our state. I commend Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Rahall for their roles in securing these important funds and the positive impact they undoubtedly will have in accelerating economic opportunity in West Virginia.”

Dr. Charles Becker, executive director of the Concord Research and Development Corporation, termed the grant funding “another integral step for Concord and our partners to continue to promote economic growth and job creation in our region.”

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.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., strongly supported the grant application. In a statement issued from his Washington office, he hailed the grant announcement and applauded the partnership’s efforts.

“These grants are great news for West Virginia because they will create new opportunities for jobs and trade, plus the building of a better future for our state and citizens,” Rockefeller said. “I have said before that we must take a collaborative approach toward economic development, and that is exactly what these organizations have done to help secure this funding.”

Last fall, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va, was joined by EDA Secretary Matthew S. Erskine at a news conference to announce federal funding of $500,000 over five years to establish an EDA University Center at Marshall and Concord Universities to serve counties in southern West Virginia. The center will assist business and industry with planning and technical assistance utilizing faculty and programs with the two higher education institutions and RCBI.

“The Center is proving to be a spark for job creation,” Rahall said of the latest grant announcement. “With the technical tools RCBI will provide, regional companies will have the know-how to put their ideas into production, resulting in greater efficiencies and savings in energy use and product durability for the consumer.”