Guidance for West Virginia University’s Engagement in the Build Back Better Program

As many of you are aware, the Federal Government has made a sizable commitment to revitalizing regions that have been severely impacted by the pandemic and shifts in the energy industry away from coal.

The $1B Build Back Better Regional Challenge, led out of the US Economic Development Agency (Build Back Better Regional Challenge | U.S. Economic Development Administration (, has a deadline of Oct. 19, 2021 for Phase 1 proposals from regional coalitions.

As the state’s land grant university, West Virginia University certainly has a role to play in these coalitions to help reinvigorate the economy in our impacted communities. It is important to stress, however, that these are not traditional research grants and as such our role is more in service to the state by assisting coalitions pursue these funds rather than directly competing solely as a University for them (understanding that there may be instances in which having the University be the lead would enhance the project’s competitiveness). To this end, we provide the following guidance for those seeking West Virginia University’s endorsement of proposals to be submitted.

Specifically, the University would endorse participation in projects meeting the following criteria:

  1. Supporting identified community and business partners who have a clear plan for rebuilding regional economies in West Virginia and its border communities. Such support may be in terms of disciplinary expertise as well as project development and management.
  2. Identifying the geographic region to be served.
  3. Identifying key agency partners in local/state government.

As well as one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Training and recruiting West Virginia’s workforce.
  2. Reemploying workers displaced by the pandemic and/or shift in the coal industry and/or
  3. Creating new employment opportunities that diversify West Virginia’s economy, with a preference for the areas of artificial intelligence/machine learning/advanced manufacturing or supporting areas.

Those seeking the University’s endorsement should develop a Concept Paper, 2-3 pages in length for review and approval by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Strategic Initiatives, and Research Office. For full consideration, Concept Papers should be submitted no later than CoB Sept. 7, 2021. Concept Papers must be sent by email to with the Subject Line “Build Back Better.”

We look forward to seeing your ideas!

— Maryanne Reed and Fred L. King