Opportunity Appalachia

Coaching is available for West Virginians interested in applying for the Opportunity Appalachia program. Amanda Workman, director of community engagement for WV Community Development Hub; Jina Belcher, deputy director of New River Gorge Regional Development Authority; Matt Ward, CEO of Sustainable Strategies DC; and Monica Miller of M. Miller Development Services host a panel discussion for interested applicants in Bridgeport.

BRIDGEPORT — Applications are now open for the regional initiative Opportunity Appalachia.

At the Bridgeport Conference Center on Jan. 13, economic development leaders gathered with West Virginia residents interested in leveraging investments in Opportunity Zones to learn more about this initiative set to position communities to attract new and renewed interest in projects critical to the growth of their towns.

The Opportunity Appalachia initiative is recognized by Forbes as one of the top 20 catalysts in the nation for “sparking the equitable revitalization of distressed communities identified as Opportunity Zones.”

Opportunity Appalachia is a three-state program (West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia) that will provide technical assistance resources averaging $50,000 (each) to up to five West Virginia-based communities, projects, and/or developers located in Opportunity Zones. There are 55 areas located across West Virginia designated as Opportunity Zones.

Attendees at the Opportunity Appalachia Summit in Bridgeport learned about challenges and strategies for Opportunity Zone projects. U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin shared remarks emphasizing the unique potential for Opportunity Zone investments to spark economic growth in West Virginia communities.

Appalachian Community Capital is the Opportunity Appalachia program manager. The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and West Virginia Community Development Hub are the lead state partners administering the program in West Virginia.

“Opportunity Appalachia will help to level the playing field for rural communities in West Virginia so that they are better positioned to attract the level of investment that is critical for sustained economic growth and job creation,” said Joseph Brouse, executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority.

Through Opportunity Appalachia, up to five Opportunity Zone communities located in West Virginia will receive technical assistance to develop community strategies and structure investable transactions, create prospectus and pitch decks targeting Opportunity Fund investors, and other services.

Investment priorities include projects focusing on downtown development, manufacturing, IT, healthcare, education, food systems, clean energy, heritage tourism and recreation.

“We have a team of coaches available for West Virginians who are interested in putting together an application for the Opportunity Appalachia initiative. Anyone who has a question or an idea for a project is welcome to reach out to me to find out more about the support that is available,” said Andrew Davis, special projects coordinator for the WV Community Development Hub.

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For more information about the Opportunity Appalachia initiative, to view an interactive map of designated Opportunity Zones in West Virginia, and to access the program application, visit: http://appalachiancommunitycapitalcdfi.org/oa-program/.

Applications are due March 2 at 5 pm.

Support is available for West Virginians who are interested in applying to the Opportunity Appalachia program. Any interested parties are encouraged to reach out to the WV Community Development Hub's special projects coordinator Andrew Davis at a.davis@wvhub.org for more information.

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