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West Virginia University to host founder and CEO of Coalfield Development Corporation, presenting ‘Rebuilding the Appalachian Economy’

Brandon Dennison, founder and CEO of Coalfield Development Corporation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Gumption. Grit. Grace. These are the core values of the Coalfield Development Corporation, a community-based nonprofit in southern West Virginia that empowers individuals to learn and grow while improving communities in tangible ways – all in the face of a challenging economic climate. West Virginia University will host the organization’s founder and CEO, Brandon Dennison, who will share Coalfield’s unique approach to community development.

The guest lecture, hosted by the IDEA Fellows Program and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, will be held on September 20 at 7 p.m. in room 414 of Evansdale Crossing. Dennison will present “Rebuilding the Appalachian Economy from the Ground Up: Social Entrepreneurship, Creative Economic Development, and Social Justice in the Coalfields of West Virginia.”

“It’s a scary time in West Virginia,” Dennison said. “The bottom really fell out in 2015, but it’s still a scary time. The coal industry has kind of left a void, and while it’s scary to have that void, here at Coalfield, we are seeing a lot of opportunity in southern West Virginia.”

Dennison will discuss those opportunities during his presentation.

“I want to talk about some of the challenges we’ve run into and how we’ve overcome those,” Dennison said. “I’ll also delve into our five enterprises.”

Those five enterprises are Reclaim Appalachia, Rediscover Appalachia, Refresh Appalachia, Revitalize Appalachia and Rewire Appalachia. Each enterprise is operated as an independent business.

“We are trying to create businesses and jobs, but we are also trying to pioneer a more diverse and fair economy,” Dennison explained. “So the idea is that there should be lots of different kinds of opportunities for lots of different kinds of people in the coalfields of West Virginia.”

In addition to job creation and overall community and economic development, Coalfield Development has one overarching goal – one that can’t necessarily be measured in a balance sheet alone.   

“In all of our businesses – our enterprises – we all strive to have a triple bottom line,” he said. “So, not just profit, but people, planet and profit.”

To keep that goal at the forefront of its unique approach, Dennison listed a few questions the organization revisits on an ongoing basis.

“Are businesses improving people’s lives and communities? Are our businesses contributing to a healthy planet? And, certainly, they need to be profitable, but it’s not all about the money.”

Cheryl Brown, associate professor of resource economics and management and a 2016-2018 IDEA Fellow, says Dennison’s presentation will tie directly into her IDEA Fellow course, Social Enterprise Development, as well as Sustainable Living, another course she co-teaches with Chris Haddox, assistant professor of interior architecture and design studies, Alan Collins, professor of resource economics and management, and Jim Kotcon, associate professor of plant pathology in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences.

“Coalfield Development Corporation is an excellent example of a West Virginia social enterprise, so we wanted to bring Brandon to campus to speak to our class, Sustainable Living, as well as to the public,” Brown said.

Haddox added, “There are some very positive things occurring in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, despite all the gloomy news emanating from the area. This talk will provide the audience with a wonderful opportunity to expand their thinking on the potential for West Virginia’s economy.”

In addition to expanding their thinking, Dennison hopes to provide attendees with some very specific takeaways.

“I’m going to present viable, social enterprise differences that are making it happen – and making it work – in southern West Virginia,” he said. “I think that will be inspiring and it will give people hope for the future of our state, but I also think folks are going to pick up on some pretty good business ideas.” 

The event is free and open to the public.

Brandon Dennison, Founder and CEO, Coalfield Development Corporation 
His remarks about his presentation scheduled for September 20, 2017. 

Download Audio File

Brandon Dennison, audio transcription



CONTACT: Nikky Luna, Communications Manager, WVU Davis College 304-293-2394; 

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