Sep 17 2021
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) and U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) applaud the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for investing $8 million for nine competitive projects impacting Kentucky's Appalachian region, an area hit hard in recent years by the war on coal and the subsequent downturn of the coal industry.
Federal funding for the projects was made possible through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, which targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.
“I have been proud to work closely with Representative Hal Rogers and many Eastern Kentucky leaders to bring jobs, development, and new opportunities to the Commonwealth’s Appalachian region. With today’s competitive grant announcements, we are taking concrete steps to foster economic diversification in this area,” said Senator McConnell. “As Senate Republican Leader, I’m able to help direct critical federal resources to Kentucky to spur growth, increase educational resources, and improve local infrastructure. These investments play a crucial role in helping our Appalachian communities succeed.”
Southern and Eastern Kentucky awardees include:
Harlan County Fiscal Court = $1,937,475 for rural broadband expansion. This project will deploy 40 miles of last-mile fiber network to an otherwise underserved 7,380 households and 282 businesses.
“Good reliable internet service has become as essential as water and electricity in today’s changing world. Kids need broadband to learn from home. Many adults have digital jobs that allow them to work from home. There are still many digital job opportunities unfilled because the folks interested in doing the work can’t due to living in locations where the internet speeds are terrible. This grant will drastically improve internet service for thousands of Harlan Countians. I can’t wait to get this project started,” said Harlan County Judge Executive Dan Mosley. “I also want to thank the nearly 2,000 Harlan Countians who answered the call to participate in the speed test earlier this year. It helped prove our case as to why this grant is much needed to expand broadband to rural areas of the county and improve it in two of our downtown business districts."
Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC) = $1,500,000 for capital access, focused primarily on counties in the Empowerment Zone and Promise Zone. The project will help create at least 400 jobs and expanded access to remote work opportunities.
“We would like to thank Congressman Rogers and Senator McConnell for their key support for the POWER program and continued support of the Appalachian Regional Commission," said Jerry Rickett, President/CEO of KHIC. "We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to work with social enterprises to help them grow in the region, through financing and technical assistance. We are also excited to partner with EKCEP to expand their training and recruitment to additional Empowerment Zone counties.”
Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) = $1,161,684 for the East Kentucky Welding Technology and AWS Training Center, which will increase welding/fabrication training and certification.
“We are absolutely delighted to provide high quality technical education for the hardworking people of Eastern Kentucky," said BSCTC President Sherry Zylka. "With ARC’s support, we are leveraging our resources to create a competitive workforce in our resilient region.”
Pikeville Medical Center = $508,076 to equip Pikeville Medical Center's Medical Training Facility and Career Development Center project. The facilty will help train 1,700 clinical workers, create 15 jobs, and improve 2 businesses. The medical training facility will also strengthen employment longevity and increase graduation rates by joining students and medical staff in activities and programs as co-participants.
“Because of similar initiatives aimed at offering healthcare-related training to those who previously worked in the mining industry, our region has been able to retain a portion of our population that would have otherwise been forced to leave,” explained Donovan Blackburn, PMC President and CEO. “This ARC POWER funding will allow Pikeville Medical Center to equip a facility that will not only help us continue to grow our staff but offer additional training opportunities to those who wish to further their career in the healthcare industry. We could not have done this without the support of ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin, Senator McConnell and Congressman Rogers."
Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) = $50,000 for a last-mile broadband study to evaluate how to best utilize Appalachia Kentucky's Rural Energy Cooperative Corporations (RECC) and their existing infrastructure to bring high-speed internet to remaining unserved and underserved areas across Eastern Kentucky. The study area includes 13 counties and over 74,600 electric cooperative members.
“SOAR has no higher organizational priority than getting last-mile broadband done. We are grateful to the ARC and its POWER initiative for accepting our planning grant application focused on creating the playbook for how Kentucky nonprofit electric cooperatives can work with existing last-mile providers to see this job through to completion," said Colby Hall, Executive Director of SOAR. "By finding creative ways to leverage existing infrastructure, SOAR believes it is possible to find more economical methods for connecting unserved and underserved communities across its service territory."
City of Pikeville = $50,000 for a tourism feasibility study focused on the Breaks Interstate Park.
"Pikeville is proud to offer an authentic Eastern Kentucky experience for visitors seeking to enjoy the great outdoors. This federal award is the first step to expanding our many attractions to drive tourism and economic engagement in our community," said James A. Carter, Mayor of Pikeville. "Across the region, Kentuckians already look to Pikeville as a destination for education, medicine and development. Now, through our partnership with the Breaks Interstate Park, we look forward to enhancing our outdoor experiences for families, thrill seekers and more."
Martin County Economic Development Authority = $48,030 for a feasibility study of value-added biomass products. The study will characterize biomass waste streams produced in Martin and Pike counties, as well as neighboring Mingo County, West Virginia, to be used in the production of wood products.
"On behalf of the Martin County Economic Development Authority, we are excited to see this project funded," said Victor Slone, Martin County Judge Executive. "This technical evaluation could be the first step in developing a cluster of industries related to the production of value-added biomass products in central Appalachia."
Isaiah House = $1,221,825 for the Reliance Works Second Chance Employment Expansion into Eastern Kentucky project, which will create 50 jobs and on-the-job training for 70 individuals in recovery from substance use disorder (based in Kentucky's 6th District, also serving individuals from the 5th District).
“We know substance use disorder, limited work experience, criminal backgrounds, and poor work histories are barriers to employment for many, and access to employment is crucial for those who are in recovery and looking to rebuild their lives,” said Isaiah House Founder and CEO Mark LaPalme. “These communities not only have a high rate of poverty and unemployment but their economic recovery has been hampered by a high rate of drug abuse, particularly opioid addiction. The Reliance Works Employment and Recovery Project takes a multi-pronged approach to focus on job creation as well as services to help people overcome substance abuse.”
Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) = $1,500,000 for technical assistance to businesses and communities to build entrepreneurship in key economic sectors. The project will serve 1,240 businesses and create 180 jobs (based in Kentucky's 6th District, serving portions of the 5th District).
“Support is critical for small enterprises to succeed in an economically distressed region such as Eastern Kentucky, even in the best of times," said Peter Hille, President of MACED. "Our communities have struggled to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, the collapse of the coal industry in 2012, and now a pandemic. This makes technical assistance, capital and access to federal resources even more crucial as small businesses and nonprofits seek to pivot, find new ways to meet their markets, and build a new economy."
Since 2015, ARC has invested over $287 million in 362 projects touching 353 counties across Appalachia through the POWER Initiative. Together, these investments are projected to create or retain nearly 35,000 jobs, leverage more than $1.5 billion in additional private investment into Appalachia’s economy, and prepare tens of thousands of workers and students for opportunities in entrepreneurship, broadband development, tourism, and other industry sectors.
“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments are critical in leveling the economic playing field so Appalachian communities can thrive.”
ARC plans to announce additional POWER projects later this year.
For more information about the ARC, visit https://arc.gov.