The grant is meant to create jobs in Southern West Virginia by utilizing resources from both institutions.
Marshall University will receive 80 percent of the funds while the remaining 20 percent goes to Concord. Stephen Rowe, Concord University Business Incubator Director, says the school will use the money for the grassroots part of the program.
“We are in the assessment stage where we are trying to determine what services are needed," Rowe said. "We identify the folks that need the services and then try to bring them together into a brew that hopefully will result in making our business more competitive and having more of them.”
The idea is to meet the needs of new and current businesses in Southern West Virginia.
Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce President Marc Meachum joined businesses from the area for a roundtable discussion last week.
“Almost everyone on the panel mentioned the problem they have with their business, other than the general economy," Meachum said, "is the availability and willingness of qualified workers."
"You heard a couple of stories, where the could expand their buisnesses dramatically immediately not 6 months from now not a year from right now if indeed they could get qualified workers.”
The manufacturing companies expressed a crying need for machinists and Rowe expects this new partnership to help meet that need.
“Over the years in this part of the state the training schools and programs for those have kind of withered away," Rowe said. "Marshall has the … advanced manufacturing center and we have an opportunity here not only to provide technical training but technical training in the newest computer aided manufacturing techniques that Marshall has.”
The Robert C. Byrd Institute is part of Marshall University. It provides regional access to technical training programs.
Rowe points out that the economy in Southern West Virginia depends largely on social services, education, medicine, tourism and coal.
“Of the eight counties in this area," he said, "we were able to come up with three that have, there’s not enough industrial or manufacturing activity in those counties to provide a statistic on how those activities contribute to economy of those counties.”
West Virginia Congressman Nick Joe Rahall says the program has the potential to bring even more federal dollars to the region.
“The proper role of government," Rahall said, "is to be there not handing out dollars but helping our businesses with the expertise that the government has at their disposal and so we hope to who knows even parlay this into future grants more money in the future to help our small businesses.”
Rowe points out those businesses may want to cash in on faculty research and access to state of the art geological equipment at Concord.