Work of the economic development arm of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is touted in a nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center plan released on Sept. 13. The plan outlines several initiatives to help the Appalachia region revive and boost its economy.

The plan, released by BPC and four U.S. senators, including Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., points out that the 13-state region has been disproportionately harmed by the decline in the coal industry and the dwindling manufacturing industry. A single plan won’t fit the entire region, the document states. Other senators who worked on the plan include Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republicans David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry is a member of the bipartisan task force of regionally and nationally recognized educators, business leaders and others who studied both legislative and regulatory issues to find ways to create jobs and boost the region’s economy. State Delegate Israel O’Quinn also served on the team.

“The bipartisan plan correctly notes that education is a key component in any economic development strategy,” Henry said. “The education and job training programs that are successful must meet the demands of specific regions in Appalachia. Local companies, educators, entrepreneurs, and government leaders are the ones who can make a region competitive in the world market, but those groups must work together. It is gratifying to see that our work with the MACH37 Cyber Accelerator at the Center for Innovative Technology to create cyber jobs, internships and educational programs in our region was prominently mentioned in the bipartisan plan.”

The 40 page plan concludes by saying Appalachia has taken a huge economic hit, but can become a case study for what a recovery can look like if the region is given the resources and tools it needs to move forward.

“For that to occur, stakeholders must realize the interconnectedness of the issues facing Appalachia and identify solutions that take into account the unique characteristics of its geography, history, and people,” the plan states. “For example, a one-size-fits-all policy to address workforce development will not be successful in Appalachia if not done in conjunction with a plan to improve the health and wellness of the citizens who make up that workforce. Rather, new policies to tackle the myriad of issues facing Appalachia should meet the unique needs of the various communities in the region, and rely on the input of the region’s leaders.”

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