Friday, May 15, 2015

Capito wary of federal program focused on economic diversification

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration will put more than $35 million into economic diversification programs in areas, like southern West Virginia, where changes in the coal industry have hurt the local economy.
The funding is available through the newly-created POWER Initiative, the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. Announced in March, it’s focused on coordinated investments in communities and workers.
In general, EDA officials said the goals of POWER are to diversify economies, create jobs in new or existing industries like healthcare or information technology, attract new sources of job-creating investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training.
“EDA has woefully neglected West Virginia over the last four or five years. I’ve really been putting the pressure on,” said U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) of the potential federal funding. “We’re getting the attention that we deserve and we need to have.”
As proposed, the POWER Initiative will award grants beginning this July to help communities organize themselves to respond on behalf of affected workers and businesses, according to the White House.
Federal officials said this year’s EDA grant awards could be the start of a possible multi-year effort.
Overall, the EDA is charged with making investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.