CHARLESTON -- The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced Wednesday that it is working with Mission West Virginia to launch a technology academy which will provide skills specific training in e-commerce applications for small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the state.

The training program is a result of assistance from ARC and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, while the training labs will be equipped with upgraded software provided by a donation from Microsoft.

A benefit of the training program is the provision by Verizon of new computers to participants in the academy in addition to its grants promoting computer literacy for adults and small business. The computers will not only assist in the training program but will provide an incentive for completing the course requirements. They can then be used to further develop computer skills at home and in the workplace.

The total assistance being provided by ARC and its partners to make the launch of the tech academy possible is over $950,000.

Gov. Joe Manchin welcomed the launching of the Mission West Virginia Technology Academy.

"The ability of partners to come together like this is a tremendous asset for all of West Virginia," he said. "Upon completion of this program, we hope to have 450 small business personnel develop greater knowledge of e-commerce applications. In addition, they will have the necessary tools to move their businesses forward."

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne Pope said, "We at ARC know that technology is the key to being competitive, and we are proud to participate in this partnership. In the past, ARC has supported Mission West Virginia by providing funding for the creation of computer labs across the state.

"Now, by partnering with Benedum, Microsoft, and Verizon, we are able to assist in providing computer training to businesses across the state. Furthermore, the small businesses attending the Tech Academy will have the computer tools necessary to be able to bring their businesses into the information age. I applaud Mission West Virginia for taking on this task -– and I commend our partners for their assistance."

"Technology has opened up a world of opportunity for West Virginians, and Verizon is deeply committed to supporting programs that give our citizens the essential skills they need to succeed in the 21st century," said H. Stan Cavendish, president of Verizon West Virginia. "Technology-based learning can motivate and empower individuals and has a profound and positive effect on the quality of life in our communities."

"The Benedum Foundation proudly supports the work of Mission West Virginia to help provide the needed technological tools and training to many of the state's citizens so that our communities can be stronger and more connected to the global economy," said Mary Hunt-Lieving, Program Officer for Community and Economic Development. "We appreciate the partnership of the Appalachian Regional Commission and other funders who recognized and rewarded Mission West Virginia's worthwhile efforts."

"Microsoft's mission has always been to help people realize their potential, no matter what their circumstance," said Microsoft MidAtlantic States General Manager Michael Ferreri. "Through our products, technology expertise, and initiatives like this partnership with ARC and the Mission West Virginia Tech Academy, we hope to improve education and create opportunities for individuals across the entire community."

"We are very excited to be providing the Mission West Virginia Technology Academy to the people of West Virginia," stated Rev. Chris Wood, Executive Director of Mission West Virginia. "Through the support of the ARC, Benedum, Verizon and others, we can help budding entrepreneurs and small business owners best utilize the technological tools that are becoming necessary to do business in today's marketplace."

Participants in the Tech Academy will be selected according to their records in promoting collaboration, responding to community needs, and demonstrating good planning.

Potential applicants should contact Mission West Virginia at 304-562-0723.

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