Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison Moving To New Role At Marshall University



In a significant development for the tri-state region, Brandon Dennison, the CEO of Coalfield Development, has announced his transition to a strategic/visionary role within the organization. Alongside this change, Dennison will also assume the role of Vice President of Economic Development and Workforce Development at Marshall University, a prominent academic institution. The appointment positions Dennison at the cabinet level within the university, working closely with President Brad D. Smith, a visionary leader in his own right.

Notably, Dennison will continue to serve as CEO and Executive President of Coalfield Development until the end of the year, ensuring a smooth transition period between the two organizations. In the coming months, Dennison and the Board of Directors will commence the search for a new CEO to lead Coalfield Development. Once selected, the new CEO will work in tandem with Dennison, adopting a co-pilot approach to guide the organization. While the CEO focuses on day-to-day leadership and stakeholder relationships, Dennison will assume responsibility for strategic direction and vision. Fundraising efforts will be divided between the two leaders, adopting a model similar to the CEO/Executive Chair structure commonly seen in for-profit enterprises. This approach is believed to facilitate a patient and effective succession process.

Undoubtedly, this marks a significant change for Dennison and the organizations he has been instrumental in leading. However, it is crucial to emphasize that his formal involvement with Coalfield Development will persist for many more years. With a deep-rooted connection to the organization, Dennison remains committed to dedicating his utmost efforts, even as his focus shifts during this transition. Additionally, the alignment of his responsibilities at Marshall University with Coalfield’s vision and mission further reinforces his continued commitment to the organization. Both entities share a strategic alignment centered around fostering a new Appalachian economy, as evident in their formal articulation agreement.

While Dennison founded Coalfield Development and has been deeply invested in its work, he has always viewed the organization as larger than himself. Failure to dissociate Coalfield Development solely from his name would contradict his aspiration to be a servant leader. The organization’s robust team, having established effective systems and strong collaborative frameworks, ensures that this transition is not merely a challenge to be mitigated, but an opportunity to bolster the organization’s resilience.

Marshall University President Brad Smith’s recognition of Coalfield Development as a key strategic partner underscores the significance of this transition. As part of Dennison’s new role at Marshall, he will continue to provide strategic leadership and support to Coalfield Development. This includes the critical task of selecting and training the future CEO, ensuring a smooth and effective succession process. In addition to his responsibilities with Coalfield, Dennison will oversee various initiatives at Marshall, such as The Advanced Manufacturing Center (formerly RCBI), Sustainability, Brownfields Assistance Center, and the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia. He will also actively participate in teams dedicated to the development of micro-credentialing programs, business growth, and regional economic strategies. These areas align with Dennison’s longstanding interests and passions throughout his career.


In closing, it is essential to highlight the perspectives of Coalfield Development’s Board President, Kenzie New Walker, and Board Treasurer, Ric MacDowell. Their sentiments reflect the organization’s strength and anticipation for the future. Walker remarked, “The transition is a signal that Coalfield Development is strong and ready.” She expressed excitement and gratitude toward Brandon Dennison, acknowledging his visionary leadership over the past 14 years and the organization’s robust board. MacDowell echoed Walker’s sentiments, stating that Dennison’s new position at Marshall University would invigorate and strengthen Coalfield Development’s mission for the region. He firmly believes that Dennison’s role at the university is not only a fitting step for the leader himself but also serves the best interests of the region they serve.


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