Companies and workers in several northern West Virginia counties affected by downturns in the coal sector will receive assistance transitioning into opportunities in the region’s growing manufacturing sector with assistance from industrial extension agents at WVU.
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership of West Virginia, housed in WVU’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, is a partner on a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership and Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative. The grant comes a year after the EDA officially designated a 20-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia as the Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community.
Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, and WVMEP, will lead the GPMMC, which includes the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development, the Greene County (PA) Economic Development, the Johnstown, Pennsylvania nonprofit JARI and the University of Pittsburgh.
“The IMCP is a 10-year effort that builds upon the region’s traditional industrial strengths, i.e., metals and steel, and seeks to re-energize that sector as well as transition it to next-generation metals and the associated uses and supply chains,” said Gerald Biser, director of WVMEP.
The grant, Biser said, enables the partners to take a “shorter-term view of coal mining supply chains and how we can best intervene, assist and transition existing supply chain companies into new opportunities, markets and customers. We will be performing parallel work with our Pennsylvania counterparts to do everything we can to assist the companies in the northern region of the state with the post-coal economy.”
The affected counties include Preston, Monongalia, Marion, Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke and Hancock.
During the initial phases of the project, WVMEP and Catalyst will conduct surveys of coal-impacted workers and supply chain companies, as well as companies in the advanced metals and materials supply chain, to create a supply chain map and needs assessment. They will also be assessing the current broadband capabilities of these companies.
“We need to assess our broadband network's ability to meet the needs of our transitioning workforce, to be educated and certified in new career paths, as well as be able to reach out and communicate with new employment opportunities,” said Robbie Matesic, executive director of Greene County Economic Development.“After we have completed the initial work of mapping the supply chain and developing a capability and needs inventory, we will know what is needed by our clients to move their business forward in new directions,” said Biser. “We will be able to tailor services and trainings for each client to help them move into new product lines or new markets. This may include Innovation assistance to develop new products; ISO and API certifications to enter new markets; or basic process improvement strategies to improve bottom line operations.”
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