U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) applauds a $7.4 million federal grant awarded to the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) to help establish the new Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO). The competitive award was announced today by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant is part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative that Rogers helped fund through his role as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"The University of Pikeville is growing by leaps and bounds, offering new programs, like this new optometry school, that expand the portfolio of our workforce and provide more opportunities to keep our best and brightest students at here at home," said Congressman Rogers. "This federal funding complements the grassroots efforts of SOAR - Shaping Our Appalachian Region, as we work to revitalize southern and eastern Kentucky and rebound from the devastating loss of more than 11,000 coal mining jobs over the last eight years."
The federal funds will be used to purchase equipment, instructional supplies, and other materials to help launch the new optometry school. KYCO will both grow the healthcare workforce and improve access to vision care in Central Appalachia.
"The University of Pikeville is deeply grateful for the significant leadership and support provided by Congressman Rogers. Progressive programs and initiatives, like the Kentucky College of Optometry, are essential to the growth of our region, as well as advancements in healthcare access and professional recruitment," said Burton Webb, Ph.D., President of the University of Pikeville. "Together, we can shape a brighter future for Kentucky's Appalachian region and UPIKE is proud to help lead the way."
KYCO will be only the second optometry college in the Appalachian Region, and will primarily serve Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia. Within the first three years of the award, KYCO plans to graduate 60 optometrists, provide care to 12,000 patients, and create a direct economic impact of $26 million to the regional economy.
“The projects and awards we are celebrating today help communities persevere and flourish as they deal with the challenges presented by the coal economy,” said Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “POWER invests in jobs and workers, and develops and implements strategies and projects that can help transform these respective regions, states, and our nation.”
UPIKE's funding includes a $4,974,100 EDA grant and a $2,500,000 ARC grant for KYCO.
"Appalachian communities are actively engaged in creating diverse local economies that are resilient, sustainable and strong." said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl. "Local leaders and entrepreneurs will use these investments to develop, direct and implement economic diversification initiatives which will have long lasting impact."
In total, the ARC and EDA announced $13.7 million for four projects in southern and eastern Kentucky. Through his role as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rogers has worked to increase federal investments in distressed central Appalachian coal communities. In the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, funding for ARC was $51 million above the President's budget request and funding for EDA's program to assist coal mining communities was 50% higher than in 2015.
Rogers has served Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia’s natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit Congressman Rogers' online office at http://halrogers.house.gov or follow him on Twitter or Instagram @RepHalRogers, and on Facebook.