The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University has been awarded $500,000 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to establish an aerospace proof-of-concept and training center in Cabell and Wayne counties.

RCBI AERO will work to create dozens of jobs in the aerospace industry and spur more than $1 million in private investment, according to RCBI Director & CEO Charlotte Weber. AERO is just RCBI’s latest initiative to boost economic development and job creation by diversifying the state’s economy.

“This grant is a major step in launching a regional aerospace manufacturing industry in southern West Virginia,” said Weber. “Our area’s existing infrastructure, available workforce and strategic partnerships make us an ideal recipient of this Regional Innovation Strategies award from the EDA.”

A 2016 feasibility study commissioned by the Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO) confirmed that Cabell and Wayne counties are well positioned to support and expand the region’s aerospace industry. The study cited assets such as Tri-State Regional Airport, the 95-acre Tri-State Aeroplex industrial and business development site near the airport, RCBI, supportive leadership in a variety of public and private organizations and the existence of established aerospace manufacturers such as Level 1 Fasteners and Star Technologies, both of Huntington, and Carbon Fiber Composites of Ona.

RCBI will partner with the West Virginia Development Office, Marshall University Research Corporation, Marshall’s Lewis College of Business, the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, HADCO, the Wayne County Economic Development Authority and Region 2 Workforce Investment Board to deliver a broad base of client services that include:

  • Access to advanced technology and expertise
  • Market research, evaluation and business planning
  • Technology transfer services (copyright, trademark, patent and intellectual properties protection)
  • Connections to contracting and supply chain opportunities, both public and private
  • Links to private investment partners
  • Workforce training to meet specific industry demands

RCBI is one of 42 Regional Innovation Strategies awardees nationwide – and the only one in West Virginia – announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce. This is only the second such award in the Mountain State and the first for southern West Virginia.

“These projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United States to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products, and export them throughout the world – increasing America’s global competitiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

To learn more about RCBI AERO, contact RCBI at 304.781.1625 or visit