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Contact: Sylvia Crum    
Director of Communications and Development 

Appalachian Sustainable Development awarded $853,456 to offer unique hybrid: creating economic prosperity and gainful employment opportunities

BRISTOL, Va. – The U.S. Department of Labor announced $29 million in awards to 27 grant recipients through the Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities (WORC) program, in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA).  Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) was awarded $853,456 and will partner with Bristol’s Promise (BP) over the next three years to transition individuals with barriers to employment to find and succeed at meaningful careers.  

ASD and BP have come together to offer programming they describe as a unique hybrid, with a vision to create robust economic prosperity by combining talents and delivering wrap-around support services. Both organizations recently launched programs to support workforce development. ASD’s Groundwork is a paid, 6-month on-the-job training and professional skills development program that focuses on training individuals with barriers to employment (dislocated workers, veterans, those with Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACEs, foster care Independent Living, limited education or those with experience in the criminal justice system), while BP’s Bristol Connect program provides resources to support frontline employees in the workplace. Employees of partner businesses and employers will realize multiple benefits from this partnership that will provide and facilitate delivery of support services, enhanced training, job placement and wrap around services to meet workforce challenges and industry needs. 

Grant funds will support an innovative, sustainable partnership between Groundwork and Bristol Connect that will align ASD’s workforce development activities with BP’s economic sustainability strategy. This partnership will broaden the capacity of each program to address economic and workforce-related impacts, maximize available resources and establish community-based approaches in both Tennessee and Virginia. The first employer partner site involved in the program is The Robinette Company in Bristol Tennessee. 

“This WORC grant partnership will provide skills and resilience to workers which strengthens our regional workforce and meets the needs of workers and employees alike,” said Melissa Roberts, Program Coordinator for the Bristol Connect Program. 

WORC grants enable communities within the Appalachian and Delta regions that have been hard-hit by economic transition and are recovering slowly to develop local and regional workforce development solutions that align with economic development strategies. Grant recipients will work with industry and community partners to promote new, sustainable job opportunities and long-term economic vitality through grant activities that address the specific needs of businesses and workers in their communities.

“The WORC Initiative encourages grantees to use innovative, regional approaches that leverage local partnerships and resources to build a strong foundation for long-term economic success in the area,” said Assistant Secretary John Pallasch. “We look forward to working with ARC and DRA to ensure that the training delivered through these grants 

better positions jobseekers to fill the unmet skill needs of local employers, so that workers and businesses can thrive in their communities.”  

The local project aims to improve the quality of life for residents who need to earn higher wages and have access to skill-building opportunities. Counties in northeast TN and southwest VA have 28.3%-15.6% poverty rates and according to the US Census, Bristol TN and VA rank lower than the national average on the following income and employment indicators: median household income, per capita income in the past 12 months, median value of owner-occupied housing units, percentage of workers over age 16 in the civilian labor force, households with a computer and internet. Bristol TN and VA rank higher than the national average on the following quality of life indicators as a percentage of the population: persons without health insurance, persons over age 65, persons under age 65.  Strategic plans for the community have indicated a need to bolster the economy and increase incomes. In order to correct some of these issues and meet these needs, this area needs a well trained workforce with trainers who can prepare for lasting careers

About The Robinette Company

The Robinette Company is a full-service packaging manufacturer specializing in products for the food, pet food, consumer, beverage, lawn and garden, nutraceutical, and health care markets. Their standards of excellence assure that end users can expect the highest level of performance from their products, contributing to positive life experiences for consumers. Learn more:

About Bristol’s Promise

Bristol’s Promise is an umbrella and coalition organization using a Collective Impact Approach to further community agendas. A catalyst and change agent, the organization helps the Bristol TN/VA community look at the big picture when assessing and planning for children, youth and family needs and targets identified risk factors with evidence-based and best practices programming. 

Through the Bristol Connect initiative, workers have access to resource navigation, a new class of employee benefit that connects workers with personalized resources and ongoing support, so life challenges don’t keep them from bringing their best selves to work. The Sustainable Workforce Model minimizes work disruptions, decreases absenteeism, improves worker’ financial stability and ultimately increases employee retention and engagement by offering personalized, immediate and human-to-human assistance when workers need it most. Employer partners are invested in supporting their employees so they stay longer, are happier and feel more engaged at work. They know that helping their employees address challenges outside of work makes them better employees at work. With a strong belief in the importance of a strong company culture, a healthy workforce, and a thriving community, businesses in Bristol TN/VA are growing. Learn more at:

About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) 

Nationally known and respected for its commitment to local farmers, Appalachian Sustainable Development celebrates its 25th year in 2020. ASD’s mission is to transition Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people to healthy food. 

Since 1995, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) has been working in 15 counties in Central Appalachia. ASD’s reach has since expanded to include partners in eastern WV and KY and southeast Ohio.  ASD uses six strategies to accomplish its work: education, increasing local food production, developing markets, increasing distribution of local agriculture products, engaging strategic partners, and researching/consulting and advising. ASD runs several programs, all focused on the food and ag sectors, including programs that help feed hungry people and programs in economic and workforce development that build opportunities for farmers to succeed. For more information about ASD go to:, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.   

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