PVCC was awarded GO Virginia grants for job training programs in cybersecurity and adult beverage manufacturing. Credit: Charlottesville Tomorrow file photo

The GO Virginia Regional Council 9 has approved $483,147 in grants for four projects to create high-paying jobs in Central Virginia.

GO Virginia is a state-funded economic development program that aims to create higher paying jobs and promote collaboration between educational institutions, businesses and localities. Launched in 2015, the initiative will bring grant funding to nine regions of Virginia and target specific industries in each region.

Region 9 includes the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange, as well as the city of Charlottesville. Regional Council 9 was given just short of $800,000 to distribute in grants at the start of the initiative.

Regional Council 9’s first grant went to the George Washington Carver Piedmont Technical Education Center in Culpeper. The $244,300 grant was approved by the GO Virginia state board on May 8.

“It’s a technical education center to train welders and machinists,” said Shannon Holland, GO Virginia Director for Region 9. “The project was driven by local businesses that had a demand for skilled employees that they could not fill, and these jobs will pay above the average wage in that area.”

Regional Council 9 received 36 inquiries in the second round of grant applicants. Holland said she tries to work with applicants to either merge similar projects or help them to further develop their projects before being considered for a grant.

“Some projects just didn’t have everything lined up yet, so we still considered them [and] maybe they can be developed,” Holland said. “Some of them just did not match, or did not hit the state goals. Not that they weren’t great projects — GO Virginia just wasn’t the right fit.”

Four projects were approved for a grant by Regional Council 9 on May 18. A $249,472  grant approved by the state board on Tuesday will fund a training program for adult beverage manufacturing at Piedmont Virginia Community College

PVCC began offering classes in winemaking in 2005, and has since added classes in craft brewing and distilling.

“We are looking at adult beverages as being a major revenue producer for the state,” said Valerie Palamountain, Dean of Workforce Services at PVCC.“If they want to continue to build the revenue then it’s time to start investing in a training program.”

Trained employees can produce higher-quality adult beverages and provide better customer experiences, Palamountain said.

The money from the grant will go toward renovating facilities for hands-on training, reaching out to employers, recruiting instructors and developing a curriculum for the program.

The grant application received letters of support and in-kind donations from local businesses, including ones in Nelson and Madison county, to meet the matching funds requirement of the GO Virginia grant.

The other three projects approved by the GO Virginia Regional Council 9 in May qualify as enhanced capacity building projects and did not have to go before the GO Virginia state board for approval. Instead, the projects must be approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The DHCD approved another application from PVCC for a $100,000 grant from GO Virginia Regional Council 9 to establish the Central Virginia CyberSecurity Partnership. PVCC representatives declined to comment until the project is acted upon.

In collaboration with Germanna Community College and Lord Fairfax Community College, the grant could help establish “a [cybersecurity] career pathway and talent pipeline across three community college service regions while establishing a replicable model,” Holland said in a press release.

The Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development is the last applicant in the pool and is asking for $58,675 to go to a site readiness project.

With the grant, the partnership will hire Draper Aden and ECS Mid-Atlantic consulting firms to assess one site in each county within Region 9 except Fauquier and Rappahannock, which are not part of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development.

Each of the eight sites will receive due diligence work, a classification of readiness and a list of recommended steps to improve site readiness.

“It helps all of the counties so that they can have a site to put growing businesses and/or attract new businesses,” said Helen Cauthen,  president of the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development & Piedmont Workforce Network. “If you don’t have a place to put growing companies, it’s very hard to keep them in county boundaries.”

The site readiness project has also been approved by the DHDC and is now waiting for a contract from Regional Council 9.

CvilleBioHub still awaits approval from the DHCD for $75,000 grant. The nonprofit supports local companies and professionals within the Charlottesville biotech community.

“Sometimes we hear about biotech opportunities just through the network itself, so instead of it being just word of mouth, you now have a point of contact,” co-founder of CvilleBioHub and chief operations officer at Contraline, Nikki Hastings said.

Cville BioHub is located in the spare conference rooms of Indoor Biotechnologies. Currently completely volunteer based, CvilleBioHub applied for the GO Virginia grant a full time employee and become a more sustainable organization.

The project is supported with in-kind donations from a handful of local biotech companies and the University of Virginia’s Economic Development group.

“We have established a foundation, and we have a vision for over the next 10 years to improve our metrics, double the number of companies, increase amount of investment and increase number of jobs,” Hastings said. “This grant is really launching us from being that early stage idea organization to something that can be long lasting, supported and supporting the community.”

Regional Council 9 will draft contracts with the state and the grantees.

The next round of applications deadline is July 25. If all four projects are approved, Region 9 will left with just less than $70,000 in the fund. However, Holland expects the recently approved state budget will allocate more money to the region.