Communities once reliant on coal are experiencing economic hardships due to the shrinking industry. To combat the problem and create workable solutions, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and its partners will host a series of three workshops titled the Coal-Reliant Communities Innovation Challenge.

NACo, in collaboration with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), and with the support of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, is asking communities to submit applications to attend the hands-on workshops, which will be guided by expert facilitators and practitioners. According to project materials, the workshops are designed to help county and regional leadership find solutions for economic problems stemming from a reliance on the coal industry and execute projects to reduce that dependence. Up to eight teams will be selected to attend each of the three workshops.

“Our ultimate goal in hosting the workshops is to support [communities] in any of their innovative economic diversification pursuits,” Program Manager Jen Horton said during a webinar detailing the events. “We’re hoping that each of the teams can come away with not necessarily a plan… we want to move away from the planning process and really focus on implementation here.”

Applications will be judged on a number of criteria, including team interest, dependence on the coal industry, existing economic development plans, previous efforts related to coal industry contraction, previous economic diversification efforts, anticipated outcomes, capacity and funding sources for post-workshop implementation efforts and potential team contribution to the overall discussion.

Ideally, communities will come away from the workshop with real-world solutions to their economic problems. “What were calling it is a roadmap of implementable actions,” Horton added. “These are the actionable steps that teams can walk away with.” 

The first workshop will be held in Pikesville, Ky., in April 2015. Applications for this session are due by Friday, Feb. 27. The second workshop will be held in Colorado in mid-September, and the third workshop will be held mid-November in West Virginia.

For more detailed information or to apply to attend a workshop, view the project’s website here.


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