The West Virginia Regional Technology Park (WVRTP or Tech Park) has received full funding for its green mining –
a $1.5 million project ($1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and $500,000 in-kind contributions from various sources) that will convert old mining sites for agricultural uses and to train out-of-work coal miners in agricultural careers.
The Tech Park, in partnership with the Benedum Foundation, originally announced in July, 2016 its plans to explore the feasibility of the green mining project, officially called the Green Mining Model Business Program – the goal of which is to create jobs, to further opportunities for entrepreneurial businesses, and to diversify the economy in Southern West Virginia. Benedum’s initial funding enabled a study to determine which high-demand crops could yield long-term return on post-mine lands and, therefore, spur economic growth in Southern West Virginia. With the latest round of funding from the ARC the project is now heading toward full implementation.
What are the core elements of the project?
Four Mile Mine (land owned by Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC mining conducted by Pritchard Mining Co., Inc.) is the site for the agriculture project. Land that previously mined is now being used to grow lavender. An initial class of 25 out-of-work miners will be trained to cultivate the crop as well as receive training on business essentials and entrepreneurial skills. Upon completion of the program participants can market themselves to other agricultural companies or utilize their skills to begin their own businesses. Further, the lavender plants will be harvested and sent to the Tech Park where it will provide the chemists, expertise, and facilities to extract the essential oils from the plants. The oils will be sold for use in perfumes, soaps, lotions, etc. The sale of the oils will provide a steady stream of funding to continue the program into perpetuity.
What progress has been made to date?
The project has already created 12 jobs, involves 18 partners, and is ready for its first class of participants to begin on June 1st. The UMWA Career Center, Workforce WV, and the WV Small Business Development Center are all assisting in identifying potential participants. The field coordinator for the project is a former coal miner, laid off from the Dry Branch Mine. During the feasibility stage mining took place on 2 acres; the project has now grown to 104 acres. A new crop, Okinawa Sweet Potatoes, will be introduced in the near future in addition to the lavender.
“This is the benefit of having the WV Regional Tech Park in our region. We are not a research park, we are a commerce center,” said Dr. Russell Kruzelock, Ph.D. and CEO of the Tech Park. “Although high-level research is conducted at the Tech Park our strength is getting solutions to market. Businesses who come to the Tech Park do so because of our in-house Ph.D.-level expertise, our proven facilities, and our capability to help create market-driven solutions to problems.”
Marina Sawyer, project coordinator for the green mining project, is hopeful for what the project could mean for our region. “We are already putting people back to work and attracting dollars to West Virginia,” Sawyer said. “Each relationship we build along the way leads to other ideas that can contribute to the growth of our region.”
“When the Tech Park was established we were given the mission to attract investment and new industry to West Virginia, create jobs for our region, and to encourage West Virginia entrepreneurship.” Kruzelock said. “We have a ‘can do’ attitude at the Park where we find a way to make great things happen instead of finding reasons why they shouldn’t. The implementation of the green mining project is just a small example of the great things that are happening at the Tech Park...and more are coming.”
The 18 partner organizations are:
- West Virginia Regional Technology Park
- Benedum Foundation
- JESMS Services LLC
- Decota Consulting Company Inc.
- Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC
- WV Army National Guard
- Pritchard Mining Co., Inc.
- Appalachian Premium Foods, LLC
- Pray Construction
- Aztec Construction
- Reeds Paving
- Metroline Farms
- Mystic Formulations
- WV State University
- WV Department of Environmental Protection
- WV Department of Agriculture
- Western Edge Consulting
- United Disciples of Christ
The green mining project is accepting applications into its first class of participants. If interested, please contact Marina Sawyer at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-356-3167, or visit www.gmmbp.org.
About the WV Regional Technology Park
The WVRTP was founded in 2011 from the former Union Carbide and Dow Chemical facilities in South Charleston, WV. The 258 acre campus has 40 buildings with 951,000 square feet and is home to over 30,000 patents. The Tech Park is regionally situated with access to 60% of the U.S. population within a one day’s drive. Its on-site access to Ph.D.-level expertise and training facilities situate the Tech Park as a one-stop-shop for businesses looking to grow, relocate, or get started. The Tech Park is a commerce center and facilitates market-driven solutions to problems. For more information visit www.wvrtp.com.