BIG STONE GAP, VA – NOVEMBER 17, 2023 –  A $200,000 grant from the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund to be used for workforce development and training at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) was closed recently between VCEDA and the college’s foundation.

The funds will be used for scholarships, tuition, training instructional costs, retraining costs and customized workforce training for area businesses as well as for assessment costs of administering National Career Readiness Certificate testing for residents of the VCEDA region.

Through the years, VCEDA has provided workforce development and training funding assistance several times to the MECC Foundation, as well as to the Southwest Virginia Community College Educational Foundation. Since an initial $500,000 VCEDA grant to the MECC Foundation in 2018, approximately 930 students at MECC have completed 927 certifications and training courses to meet the workforce needs in the region.

In total, more than $1 million in grants have been approved by VCEDA to the MECC Foundation, including more than $200,000 approved from the VCEDA Renewable Energy Fund in support of renewable energy training in the area.

“Employers in the region who have benefited from this supported training include Sykes/Frontier, England Furniture, Scott County Telephone Cooperative, VFP, Komatsu, Ballad Health and many more,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “These employers have created hundreds of jobs in the Southwest Virginia region, building long-term, sustainable employment that will help renew the economy of the coalfield region. The funding being approved now will continue to support future training and certification needs to meet the ongoing demand for skilled, trained workers in high-need industries such as manufacturing, technology and health care sectors.”

MECC anticipates training 500 or more students in 2024-2025, with existing industries expanding their employment and several new businesses expected to locate in the region.

“As in the prior grant, MECC indicated this project is being pursued to proactively stem population loss by helping displaced workers pursue a new, high-paid career option that will allow them to stay in the Southwest Virginia community while simultaneously attracting additional talent to the area,” Belcher added.

“MECC’s Workforce Training Grant through VCEDA removes financial barriers for students who are paying out of pocket for tuition and certifications expenses,” said Dr. Amy Greear, vice president of institutional advancement and executive director of the MECC Foundation. “This grant will directly impact students by assisting them in earning meaningful nationally recognized credentials, further building Southwest Virginia’s workforce of trained, skilled employees.”

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. or