Southwest Va. receives federal grant to help diversify economy
Friends of Southwest Virginia received a $275,000 federal grant to help diversify the region’s economy as the coal industry declines.
The Appalachian Regional Commission also awarded $75,000 to the group’s Southwest Virginia RESOURCE-FULL project.
The project is designed to help diversify Southwest Virginia’s economy through developing its outdoor tourism industry and supporting entrepreneurial and small business development in the region.
“Among Southwest Virginia’s biggest assets are its beautiful outdoor attractions, including rivers, mountains with beautiful vistas and countless trails,” Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones said in a statement. “This project leverages these tourism assets for business opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses, helping to grow the economy and contribute to the great quality of life in the region.”
The project is one of 26 groups to receive the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grants. The department awarded $10 million in its first round.
Friends of Southwest Virginia is the lead applicant on the project and will work with educational institutions, planning district commissions and other business and economic development groups.
The coal industry has been a major employer in the region. Bristol-based Alpha Natural Resources, which was the second-largest coal company in the U.S. in 2011 when it purchased Massey Energy, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
The coal industry is facing pressure from environmental regulations and stiff competition from the natural gas industry.