The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the U.S. federal government—as well as 13 state governments—focused on revitalizing 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.
On February 12, 2020, ARC announced nearly $3.3 million in investments to support economic diversification in the Region’s coal-impacted communities.
Recognizing that a community without high-speed internet has almost zero chance of economic revitalization, the new projects specifically focus on improving broadband infrastructure in New York. They also focus on strengthening responses to the substance abuse crisis in Pennsylvania, and support Opportunity Zone investments to revitalize communities in Alabama.
“These three investments in Appalachian communities well-represent the breadth of the work ARC is doing through the POWER Initiative,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.
“Whether it’s funding important broadband infrastructure to ensure citizens and businesses have competitive internet access, investing in facilities for individuals navigating the substance abuse recovery to work process, or helping communities capitalize on the transformative change Opportunity Zones can provide, POWER is helping change the narrative for coal-impacted Appalachia,” he added.
The awarded projects include:
- $1,552,554 to Southern Tier Network, in Corning, New York, to expand the Southern Tier of New York’s existing high-speed dark fiber optic ring to create increased capacity through additional loops of fiber to ensure that entrepreneurs in the most rural areas of the region will be able to effectively startup businesses;
- $1,000,000 to the Somerset County Commissioners, in Somerset, Pennsylvania, to assist with construction of the new detox unit of the Twin Lakes Center which treats individuals suffering from substance use disorder, providing an additional 472 patients annually, and 33 jobs for substance abuse recovery professionals; and
- $733,150 to Opportunity Alabama, Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, to build local capacity to effectively prepare for Opportunity Zone investment; create a dedicated pipeline to access national and local Opportunity Zone investments; and develop unique impact investment data collection and analysis processes around Opportunity Zone projects.
Funding for these awards was made via the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization), a congressionally-funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
With this new funding announcement, ARC has now invested over $195 million in 242 projects touching 350 counties across Appalachia. Together, these investments are projected to create and/or retain 23,500 jobs, create and/or improve more than 10,700 businesses, and attract over $900 million in leverage private investment into Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities.
ARC is currently accepting applications in response to the POWER 2020 Request for Proposals (RFP). Required Letters of Intent are due 5 p.m. (ET) February, 28, 2020. Final applications are due 5 pm (ET) March 27, 2020.
Photo of West Main Street in Somerset, Pennsylvania (one of the awarded communities) is by Canadian2006 via Wikipedia.