GENEDGE's Sam Wolford - Regional Growth Manager for Southwest Virginia - was interviewed in early December 2021 for the following article, 'Coal is not our future.' We thank Cardinal News' business reporter Megan Schnabel for allowing GENEDGE to participate.
‘Coal is not our future’
Four manufacturers in Virginia’s coalfields are part of a pilot project aimed at developing a clean-energy industry cluster.
by Megan Schnabel, Cardinal News, December 22, 2021
BLUEFIELD – When two brothers started a metal fabrication company in a Bluefield garage in 1973, it served one industry: coal mining.
Lawrence Brothers made battery trays, the heavy-duty steel boxes that encase batteries for mining equipment. Over the years, the company grew, adding customers and employees and moving to successively larger facilities.
Coal remained a constant – until it didn’t. From its 2008 peak until 2018, U.S. coal production dropped by more than a third, and half of the mines in the Appalachian region closed, according to federal figures.
But Lawrence Brothers is growing, thanks to a timely move by its third-generation owners toward expanding industries. Today, less than 5% of the company’s business is tied to mining, compared to 98% in 2008. Its employees now build battery boxes for the warehouse industry, a sector that has seen explosive growth in recent years thanks to the rise of e-commerce.
And Lawrence Brothers is preparing for an even more seismic shift away from coal: It is one of four manufacturers in and around Tazewell County that are part of a push to bring clean-energy manufacturing to the region.