Friday, October 12, 2018

Appalachian Regional Commission announces $26.5 million in grants to diversify coal country

The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced $26.5 million in awards meant to diversify and expand the economy in Appalachian communities hurt by the decline of the coal industry. The awards come from the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative.

"These 35 awards are projected to create or retain over 5,400 jobs and leverage more than $193 million in private investment into 59 of the region’s coal-impacted counties by supporting workforce training and education in manufacturing, technology, healthcare, and other industry sectors," The Lane Report reports. "They also invest in infrastructure enhancements to continue developing the region’s tourism, entrepreneurial and agriculture sectors, as well as increase access to community-based capital, including impact-investing funds, venture capital and angel investment streams."

 Here are the biggest awards:

Virginia Community Capital in Christiansburg, Va., will receive $2.5 million for Impact Appalachia: A Market-Making Fund for Central Appalachia. The project aims to fill funding gaps in Central Appalachia's economy and support business development.

Coalfield Development Corporation in Wayne, W.Va., will receive $2.03 million for its Social Enterprise and Economic Diversification-Leveraging Investment for Transformation project, which seeks to remove barriers to participating in the workforce.

West Virginia Products Cooperative, Inc. in Princeton, W.Va. will receive $1.8 million to boost the timber industry in Appalachia.

The Alabama Community College System will receive $1.75 million for its Alabama STRONG (Skills Training to support Real Opportunities for New job Growth) project, which seeks to increase awareness about current and future job opportunities in the advanced manufacturing sector in 10 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.

The Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur, Tenn., will receive $1.5 million for the Internet of Things Innovation Ecosystem Project, which works to increase fiber optic broadband buildout and improve its management.

The Marshall University Research Corporation in Huntington, W.Va., will receive $1.49 million for its Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment program, which aims to develop a regional system to provide treatment and recovery, job training, and job placement services to people suffering from the decline of coal and the opioid epidemic.

The Natural Capital Investment Fund in Shepherdstown, W.Va., will receive $1.37 million for its Downtown Appalachia Redevelopment Initiative, which seeks to create healthy downtown commercial districts in coal-impacted West Virginia towns.

The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, Inc., in Corbin, Ky., will receive $1.3 million to install a wastewater treatment facility for the Appalachian Wildlife Center. The center is being developed on 19 miles of reclaimed mine land as a tourist attraction that will eventually feature the nation's largest elk restoration and viewing site.

The Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission will receive $1.25 million for physical improvements to the Western North Carolina Farmers Market. "The infrastructure improvements will provide immediate benefits to 64 market-dependent businesses, will attract new clients and consumers to the market, and will providespace to incubate value-added businesses," ARC reports.

The Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission in Altoona, Penn., will receive $1.22 million to expand the Alleghenies Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, commonly called Startup Alleghenies. The program helps entrepreneurs create and expand new businesses, which will bring new jobs to the area.

Innovation Works, Inc., in Pittsburgh, Penn., will receive $1.03 million for the Western Pennsylvania Small Business Services for Coal-Impacted Communities program. The program seeks to revitalize coal-impacted communities in western Pennsylvania by helping people find jobs or start businesses. It also supports existing businesses.

The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Ky., will receive a $1 million grant to support its Community Oriented Access to Learning program. The program will help unemployed and underemployed residents in 14 counties in southeastern Kentucky to obtain job training and education.

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