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Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development brings grant money to Southwest Virginia companies


BLACKSBURG, Va., April 25, 2011 – Nine projects totaling more than half a million dollars have been approved for Southwest Virginia’s transportation equipment manufacturing industry. 

The grants provide money to make industrial plants more efficient, fuel new product creation, or beef up company research-and-development efforts, Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development announced.

The largest grant recipient is Volvo Trucks North America, headquartered in Dublin. Four smaller companies also competed successfully for the grants: Salem Vent, Imperial Group of Dublin, and Dynax America and Metalsa of Roanoke.

The grants are issued under a U.S. Economic Development Administration project focused on Southwest Virginia. The money is designated to provide the kind of technical assistance that allows companies to grow and create jobs. Assistance to companies will be provided through College of Engineering faculty led by the Center for High Performance Manufacturing. Other research guidance will be provided by experts from GENEDGE Alliance (formerly the Virginia Philpott Manufacturing Extension Partnership.)

“We are excited to launch the kind of research and development that will make companies more competitive, helping them flourish and create jobs,” says John Provo, director of Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development and Virginia Tech’s principal investigator on the grant. “This is our first big milestone of an ambitious three-year project.”

The projects include development of lightweight aluminum side rails for heavy trucks (Metalsa), better fresh-air ventilation systems for sleeper cabs (Salem Vent), and improvements in several areas of Volvo Truck’s manufacturing plants.

The grant will underwrite $400,000 of the work, along with $200,000 in contributions from the companies.

A second and final round of grant funding will be made available in the fall. The grant area encompasses the Roanoke Valley and Allegheny Highlands through the New River Valley to Washington County. “We are looking for projects that will develop new products, improve processes, or implement green technologies,” says Kevin Byrd, executive director of the New River Valley Planning District Commission. 

For information on the upcoming round of funding, please contact Brad Mecham at the New River Valley Planning District Commission at (540) 639-9313. 

Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.