Positively West Virginia
Positively West Virginia
Episode 6: Rebuilding the Appalachian Economy from the Ground Up

Coalfield Development operates as a family of five social enterprises. A social enterprise is a business that combines the compassion of the nonprofit sector with the efficiency of the for-profit sector.

The organization exists because in 2009 volunteers started to address concerns about housing in Wayne, WV. It was quickly realized that traditional charity was not nearly enough to address the deep, generational challenges they face. After intense community engagement, Coalfield Development pioneered a relationship-based, holistic approach to on-the-job training. Unemployed and underemployed people were hired to construct green affordable housing. Trainees worked the 33-6-3 model each week: 33 hours of paid labor, 6 hours of higher education class time, and 3 hours of life-skills mentorship.

Today, they have grown into a family of social enterprises working throughout the region as a leader in the building of a new economy during the wake of the coal industry’s rapid decline.

Coalfield Development have created more than 40 on-the-job training positions, more than 200 professional certification opportunities, redeveloped more than 150,000 square feet of dilapidated property, and successfully launched five new businesses in real estate development, construction, wood working, agriculture and artisan trades – industries based on local assets and having real viability in the Appalachian region.

Show Notes:

  • 0:30-1:29: Jim introduces Brandon Dennison and his company, Coalfield Development. Jim asks Brandon to cover any spots he may have missed and to provide some insight about his company.
  • 1:30-3:11: Dennison describes what Coalfield Development is all about and their purpose.
  • 3:12-3:27: Tell us a little about your background
  • 3:28-5:17: Dennison tells us about where he’s from, where his parents are from, where he went to school and what inspires him.
  • 5:18-5:29: When did you get started with Coalfield Development?
  • 5:30-8:16: Dennison talks about where the idea of Coalfield Development came from, how it started, and their first hire way back in 2012
  • 8:17-8:40: What’s the one thing you’re most excited for for Coalfield Development right now?
  • 8:41-9:38: “The individual success stories.” Dennison talks about how fulfilling it is to see crew members go from homeless to walking across the graduation stage
  • 9:39-10:11: What has been your worst business moment so far?
  • 10:12-13:03: Dennison walks us through that moment and how hard it can be to take charge and terminate an employee early on.
  • 13:04-13:18: What’s the one takeaway from that experience?
  • 13:19-13:40: “Don’t give up on something you feel is worthwhile.”
  • 13:41-14:37: What would you say is the best thing about doing what you’re doing in West Virginia?
  • 14:38-15:24: “West Virginia really has a genuine, uniqueness about it.”
  • 15:25-15:30: What would you say is your best business moment?
  • 15:31-16:01: Dennison talks about the first graduation of crew members and what a proud moment that was.
  • 16:02-16:17: Take us through how your non-profit company is set up
  • 16:18-17:18: Dennison talks about the counties they serve in West Virginia and how they go about their hiring process, hours worked, etc.
  • 17:19-17:47: What kind of projects are you working on?
  • 17:48-20:47: Dennison talks about the many projects and sectors Coalfield Development is involved in across the state, From reconstruction of old buildings to fundraisers to art festivals.
  • 20:48-21:21: Jim takes a moment to recognize the Positively WV sponsors
  • 21:22-21:32: What’s one thing you want people to know about what you do?
  • 21:33-22:07: “I think most importantly, I’m a mentor.”
  • 22:08-22:25: What’s the vision you have long-term for Coalfield Development?
  • 22:26-24:00: Dennison talks about how the vision is a work in progress and is something they always have in the back of their mind.
  • 24:01-24:25: What’s one piece of advice you’d give young business entrepreneurs?
  • 24:26-24:53: “Trust your gut. Be willing to put your ideas up against criticism.”
  • 24:54-25:55: What’s one thing you do everyday that contributes to your success?
  • 25:56-26:20: “I take a lot of time for prayer and reflection.”
  • 26:21-26:27: What’s one resource you use at Coalfield you cannot live without?
  • 26:30-27:11: Dennison says his journal, which helps keep him connected to why he is doing what he’s doing in the first place.
  • 27:12-27:15: What’s one book you’d recommend?
  • 27:17-27:48: “Social Entrepreneurship: What everyone Needs to Know.” By David Bornstein and Susan Davis.
  • 27:49-28:14: If you could meet anyone in West Virginia, who would it be and why?
  • 28:15-29:21: Dennison says he’d like to meet a West Virginian out there with a great entrepreneurial idea so that he can do what he can to make that happen.
  • 29:22-29:37: How can our listeners learn more about what you’re doing at Coalfield Development?
  • 29:38-29:57: Dennison gives their website where he mentions his personal email is available.
  • 29:58- 30:56: Jim closes out the show by thanking Brandon for joining him and thanking the Positively WV sponsors yet again.