- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - Bluefield will get $2 million from the federal government to develop an industrial incubator for start-up businesses, part of $28 million in grants to regions hit hard by the decline in coal mining, federal officials said Thursday.

About $9 million of the funding will apply to projects and research either in or involving West Virginia, according to U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

“Although federal funding won’t undo the harmful effects of overreaching regulations, I am hopeful that the grants announced today will have a positive impact on West Virginia’s road to economic recovery,” Capito said.

The federal Economic Development Administration said the incubator will provide space and services to entrepreneurs to help with retooling existing businesses, fostering new ones and providing job opportunities to displaced workers. It’s projected to create 36 jobs, save 36 others and leverage more than $500,000 in private investment. The total incubator project cost was estimated at $2.5 million.

An Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $1.5 million to Marshall University Research Corp. for the Sprouting Farms project is intended to help develop agriculture in nine counties by educating new farmers, launching farm businesses, and jump-starting channels to wholesale markets. Sprouting Farms is projected to create 20 new businesses, 33 jobs and leverage nearly $1 million more in investment.

Nearly $500,000 for the Region 1 - Planning and Development Council in Princeton is for detailed mapping of the coal industry supply chain across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. It’s meant to complement other research on the decline in the coal economy and provide technical assistance to supply chain firms trying to return to growth and profitability, the commission said.

Other grants included some $350,000 to West Virginia University Research Corp. in Morgantown to examine full ecosystem of the coal industry in Appalachia, identifying, quantifying and mapping data on all relevant coal industry activity and analyzing the downturn’s impact on freight rail, barge and truck transportation.

The commission’s $363,000 grant to the Center for Rural Health Development in Hurricane is for seeding a revolving loan fund to strengthen the health care industry across 25 counties in central West Virginia. It was projected to help create or retain 65 jobs, yield $1 million of financing for health care businesses, and provide 216 organizations with technical help.

Smaller grants went to programs in West Virginia, while others were awarded economic development projects and programs in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Montana and Washington.

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