The Appalachian Regional Commission announced $46.4 million in grant funding Thursday to support economic diversification in coal impacted communities.
Through ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization, the 57 projects awarded in Kentucky and nine other states are expected to create or retain more than 9,000 jobs, attract $519 million in private investments and be matched by more than $59.2 million publicly and privately.
“Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure — including broadband access,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said in a release. “These investments are critical in leveling the economic playing field so Appalachian communities can thrive.”
Since POWER launched in 2015, the commission has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects in the Appalachian region.
Eleven Kentucky based projects received more than $8.5 million:
▪ Harlan County Fiscal Court received $1.9 million for its Harlan County Connected Project to design and build 40 miles of fiber network.
▪ Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, in London, was awarded $1.5 million to establish a revolving loan fund through the Kentucky Highlands Empowerment Zone/Promise Zone Operations, which will provide 400-425 jobs and training for 400 workers. The project will create a revolving loan fund; expand Teleworks, a remote work training and job placement program, to Clinton, Wayne and Whitley counties; and launch a Career Ladder Incentive Program to pay a portion of tuition and fees for employees completing a certification or training.
“The project will meet several crucial needs in our region,” President and CEO Jerry Rickett said in a release.
▪ Mountain Association, in Berea, received $1.5 million to assist economic recovery in Eastern Kentucky by leveraging market opportunities, expanding technical assistance and financing business start-ups, growth and innovation. The project is expected to improve 620 businesses, serve 1,240 businesses and create 53 new businesses, and create 180 new jobs and retain 134 jobs.
▪ Isaiah House Treatment Center, in Willisburg was awarded $1.2 million to expand its second-change employment program Reliance Works to Estill, Jackson, Lee, Lincoln, Powell and Wolfe counties. The project plans to create 50 to 60 jobs and provide job training for 70 to 80 people in recovery from substance use disorder with limited work experience, criminal backgrounds or poor work histories.
▪ Prestonsburg’s Big Sandy Technical College received $1.16 million for East Kentucky AWS Training and Testing Center to provide welding and fabrication training in Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin and Pike counties. The project will assist with training 70 new welders, improve skills of 30 dislocated or incumbent workers, and improve 10 businesses.
▪ A Community Ventures Corporation project called Appalachian Access to Capital Initiative will use a $636,000 grant to provide technical assistance and training in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The Lexington-based grantee expects to serve 27 businesses, create more than 200 jobs and leverage $15 million in private investment in three years with the award.
▪ Pikeville Medical Center was awarded a $508,000 grant to equip a medical training facility and career center to create 15 new jobs and train 1,712 people and serve 11,351 patients in its first year.
“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,” said PMC President and CEO Donovan Blackburn. “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.”
Blackburn expects the facility will increase graduation rates and minimize staff turnover.
▪ Shaping Our Appalachian Region, or SOAR, was awarded $50,000 to assist with bringing high-speed internet to Eastern Kentucky.
▪ The City of Pikeville was awarded $50,000 for its Pikeville/Breaks Tourism Partnership to conduct a feasibility study for tourism in the region to determine physical assets, economic and tourism market study and tourism branding study.
▪ Robertson County Fiscal Court received $50,000 for a broadband feasibility study.
▪ Martin County Economic Development Authority received a $48,000 grant to evaluate the economic opportunity of converting biomass waste materials into value-added wood-based products.