Higher education institutions forming Alliance to revitalize southern communities

Claiming that utilizing resources can create jobs, enhance the state’s business sector and competitive edge, ensure workers have access to latest training and technology, build long-lasting partnerships and revitalize small communities, 10 southern West Virginia higher education institutions Monday unveiled their Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia.

The Alliance is a joint effort among the 10 to connect educational resources and workforce training offered in the state to better promote the region.

The partner institutions include Bluefield State College, BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Concord University, Marshall University, Mountwest Community & Technical College, New River Community and Technical College, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, West Virginia State University and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

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The Alliance will continue work in eliminating redundancies and share best practices, improve the quality of life for area residents, create jobs and revitalize southern communities.

Marshall University Jerome A. Gilbert said in a press conference unveiling the Alliance, that last year he began speaking with people about what higher education and institutions could do to assist southern West Virginia communities in tackling the challenges they face, and how they could be more competitive in the global economy.

“And that’s when the idea of the Alliance really emerged,” Gilbert said. “And this Alliance will complement all existing and ongoing developmental efforts by partnering with state and local entities ensuring that economic growth is a priority.”

All higher education presidents and representatives involved claim the main goal is to continue to use existing resources, including education services, workforce training, the talent pool, all available business sites and willing partners in the southern area of the state.

“Our approach is to help support and invest in our southern West Virginia communities and help keep our families here at home and rebuild our communities together,” Gilbert said.

He said there are a number of tangible advantages that can be offered to the 21 counties served by the Alliance, the most obvious being the education of future employees for a business.

“Educational and training programs can make a huge difference for a company that needs a talented group of employees,” Gilbert said. “Higher education means jobs.”

West Virginia State University President Anthony L. Jenkins, vice chairman for the Alliance, praised all presidents and representatives involved in the Alliance and said all members are committed and excited for the opportunity to work collectively in addressing life, health and upward mobility factors that profoundly impact the southern part of West Virginia.

“The alliance comes at a crucial time in our state where the economy and the workforce faces daunting challenges,” Jenkins said, “but as presidents, our goal is to share and adapt ideas to develop a state-wide playbook that is a solution and problem solving apparatus.”

Jenkins claimed the playbook will help West Virginians across the state reach their educational attainment and enhance their quality of life. He said it will also develop labor workforces that are highly desirable by industries in the state and beyond.

Secretary of State Mac Warner praised the Alliance and its members, saying they have made the decision to be in the state improve the position of an economically deprived southern West Virginia.

“There’s no more important time in West Virginia’s history than right now when we are struggling in so many areas across the state, but we are making a change,” Warner said. “These colleges can put tools in the hands of children and prepare them for the future.”

“The future of southern West Virginia is right here.”

The Alliance will be focusing in the 21-county area including Boone, Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Putnam, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Webster and Wyoming counties.

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