A Southwest Virginia program designed to attract or expand energy storage and electrification businesses received a nearly $500,000 GO Virginia grant as part of $6.3 million in disbursements announced Friday.
The region’s lone project to receive funding gets more than $486,000 for an Appalachian Voices program designed to attract and retain jobs primarily in the Cumberland Plateau Planning District — Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties.
On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced funding to support 15 projects statewide, including eight regional GO Virginia projects and seven projects through GO Virginia’s Economic Resilience and Recovery Program, according to a statement.
“This project connects directly to the ongoing efforts of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia to support solar-related jobs in the region,” Adam Wells, regional director of community and economic development at Appalachian Voices, said in a statement.
“Since the workgroup was established, we have had the goal to support manufacturing jobs connected to renewable energy sectors.”
Kalen Hunter, program director for GO Virginia Region One, said the council approved the solar work in 2019.
“It found we could potentially partner with existing manufacturers in the region to help them pivot and scale up their businesses focused on energy storage and electrification manufacturing,” Hunter said Friday.
“The GO Virginia funds will be used to complete a targeted technical analysis and a business slot analysis, and a ‘voice of industry’ report will also come from that. They will also be staffing a position to manage this project and the efforts of this project,” Hunter said.
The project identified four companies — Lawrence Brothers in Tazewell County, which manufactures battery trays; Simmons Equipment in Tazewell County, which manufactures battery-powered mining equipment; West River Conveyors and Machinery in Buchanan County, which makes electrical components; and AMR Pemco, also in Tazewell County, which makes electrical switchgear and transformers — to receive technical assistance.
“This is a project to help existing companies in our region pivot to advanced battery manufacturing — things like electric car batteries, motive power equipment,” said Jonathan Belcher, executive director of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority. “The four companies already do things tangential to that and would have the easiest time transitioning into the battery sector.”
No grant funds will go to those companies, Hunter said.
Over a four-year period, this is forecast to retain 59 existing jobs and help create 147 jobs, Hunter said.
“What we like about this project, of the four industry sectors GO Virginia Region One has identified as priorities — agriculture, information technology, advanced manufacturing and energy and minerals — this has that intersection between advanced manufacturing and energy,” said Shannon Blevins, vice chancellor of economic development and strategic initiatives at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“GO Virginia money can’t go to these companies, but they will be direct beneficiaries of this work.”