Rebuilding Appalachia Through Reuse and Revitalization

Rebuilding Appalachia Through Reuse and Revitalization

Join us at DRC19 to learn how Coalfield Development is helping to Rebuild Appalachia through reuse and revitalization.

Brandon Dennison is Ashley Dennison’s husband and father to their boys: Owen and Will. Born and raised in West Virginia, he is Founder and CEO of Coalfield Development, which incubates social enterprises designed to diversify Appalachia’s coal-based economy and cultivate opportunity for people facing barriers to employment. Dennison graduated from Shepherd University with a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Political Science. He holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from Indiana University. In 2017, Brandon was named West Virginian of the Year by WV Living Magazine. In 2016, he was named one of “40 Under 40: Young Leaders Who Are Solving the Problems of Today” by the Chronical on Philanthropy. He is winner of the JMK Social Innovation Prize, is a DRK Entrepreneur, and is an Ashoka Fellow.

As a college student, Brandon Dennison volunteered with his church to repair homes in West Virginia’s coal country. He never forgot seeing people his own age desperate for paying work.  In 2010, Brandon founded Coalfield Development Corporation as a community-based non-profit organization providing affordable homes, creating quality jobs, and generating opportunities for full life for low- income families in southern West Virginia.  The Coalfield Development Corporation offers on-the-job-training, education, and mentoring to people in the southern coalfields. Brandon was quoted in the Bill Moyers “Making Change” series, saying, “Our responsibility is to create opportunity, then to provide encouragement and build the self-confidence necessary for pursuing opportunity.” Coalfield Development has created more than 200 new jobs, over 50 new businesses, and more than 800 professional certification opportunities for unemployed people, many of whom were laid-off coalminers.

Jacob Israel Hannah grew up homeschooled on a mountaintop farm with his 6 siblings where he learned the appreciation of stewarding clean water, sustainable agroforestry, hunting, and the bond between man, mountain, and maker. Before joining Coalfield Development, Jacob spent time renovating dilapidated houses in Davis, WV and worked as a Lineman with Full Circle Concepts. After getting an associate’s degree as a first generation student in Business Management from Garrett College and a Bachelor’s in Management for Sustainability from Bucknell University, Jacob studied cultural sustainability in France and Scotland for 6 months. Testing out his triple-bottom line sustainability concepts, Jacob spent 3 years developing revitalization initiatives for coal towns in central Pennsylvania, and food security programs in Western Maryland. Now he is Coalfield Development’s very first Conservation Coordinator, focusing on creating innovative ways to protect and incorporate wild, wonderful, West Virginia into the new and bright future.

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