A team of regional partners representing Giles County participated in a workshop series designed to help communities that rely on the declining coal industry to develop economies that are less reliant on coal, and provide support for workers who may lose their livelihood through coal mining or coal power plant closures and layoffs. The team included members from Giles County government, the New River Valley Regional Commission, the New River-Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board, the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance, and the Friends of Southwest Virginia.
The workshop took place in November 2015 in Charleston, WV, and included presentations on a variety of economic development tools and topics that communities can implement to help diversify their local economies to become less reliant on the coal industry. Topics include small business development and entrepreneurship, infrastructure development, workforce development and services for dislocated coal workers, and a variety of data tools that communities can use to study their economy and identify the types of opportunities that may be most appropriate to pursue. In addition, each team completed a series of brainstorming exercises intended to identify the priority projects that communities can undertake to begin to prepare for the transition away from coal jobs. The Giles County team identified several projects, such as improving broadband access, assessing job training programs’ ‘fit’ with local careers, and small business development and infrastructure improvements related to Giles County’s many outdoor recreation assets and opportunities to attract tourism.
The workshop series was organized by the National Association of Counties with support from the US Economic Development Organization, which has hosted three workshops for teams from all over the United States. More information on this initiative at: www.diversifyeconomies.org .