October 3, 2022
Last month, the USDA awarded Greenbrier Valley EDC a Rural Business Development Grant to help us explore rural biobased economic development opportunities in the Greenbrier Valley. Biobased products aren’t new. Paper is an example of a product using a renewable feedstock, but as technologies evolve, there are more applications for the remnants of our large wood industry.
Bioproducts include fuels such as biodiesel, resins that imitate those made from petroleum, agriculture products such as fertilizer. The possibilities are growing (literally), but in order for us to understand if the Greenbrier Valley is a location that can support and/or attract these companies, research into the available feedstock and infrastructure of the region must be complete.
Enter Ecostrat. Ecostrat is a North American leader in assessing, developing, optimizing, and managing biomass supply chains. They maintain a 150-member industry stakeholder group and $60B capital market ratings review committee. Ecostrat works with communities, usually those in economic distress, to support current industry sectors and create new jobs by accelerating rural biobased economic development.
The project is designed to increase the ability of local businesses that make or supply woody biomass, transportation and logistics, and related services to provide those goods and services to green technology companies that produce biobased products. Ecostrat, aided by a local advisory committee, will:
- research and clarify feedstock questions (quality/quantity/logistics),
- analyze and identify supply chain or infrastructure weaknesses and
- provide technical assistance to local businesses to help achieve an “A” rating.
What if we fail to achieve a satisfactory rating? We certainly don’t anticipate or hope to fail, but the research gained as part of this process is invaluable. It is better, in our opinion, to know what our weaknesses are and work on fixing them, rather than proceed down this path without knowing.
In the second phase of this project, Ecostrat will provide further assistance in leveraging the newly acquired BDO Zone rating to attract new markets to the Greenbrier Valley that buy the products and services local businesses provide—and ultimately to create new jobs.
The Greenbrier Valley EDC is currently forming a local advisory committee for this work. Interested parties can email email@example.com. More information on this process can be found here: https://bdozone.org/
The green technologies emerging in biodevelopment could equate into economic opportunities for the Greenbrier Valley. It is important we understand how we fit into this space, and how to leverage our current strengths – mainly a viable and sustainable forestry/wood industry – into growth.
Support from the offices of West Virginia’s Senators was important in awarding the project:
“I’m glad to see more funding heading to the region to support more economic development opportunities within the sawmill, transportation, and forestry industries. I will continue to fight for the resources to help create and maintain a healthy business climate that our counties need to grow and thrive.”
–U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito
“Investing in our communities spurs economic growth and creates good-paying, long term jobs, which is why I’m pleased USDA is supporting the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation’s efforts to accelerate local business development. The awards announced today will boost the forestry, transportation and sawmill industries across southern West Virginia, and I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of the investment.”
–U.S Senator Joe Manchin