On October 6, 2021, during the opening plenary of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)’s annual conference in St. Paul, Virginia, Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin provided a preview of ARC’s new 2022–2026 Strategic Plan for revitalizing the Appalachian region.
“One of the most striking things about the five investment goals in our new strategic plan is they reaffirm our core mission—but those goals are reflected through a modern lens of promoting equity, innovation, sustainability and resilience into our work,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Manchin. “The new strategic plan represents the structure of ARC but allows flexibility for innovation and entrepreneurship as we move our Appalachian communities forward.”
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 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 rest of the nation.
The strategic plan, Appalachia Envisioned: A New Era of Opportunity, is expected to be formally approved by the Commission in the coming weeks.
During the plenary conversation with ARC States’ Co-Chair Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Moderator Chancellor Donna Price Henry of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Federal Co-Chair Manchin emphasized that the new strategic plan reaffirms ARC’s commitment to five primary investment goals:
- Building Appalachian Businesses;
- Building Appalachia’s Workforce Ecosystem;
- Building Appalachia’s Infrastructure;
- Building Regional Culture and Tourism; and
- Building Community Leaders and Capacity.
“ARC’s strategic plan builds on Appalachia’s momentum and supports the Region’s greatest assets—natural beauty and a world-class workforce,” said ARC States’ Co-Chair Governor Ralph Northam. “I’m grateful to leaders from across the Region, including my fellow governors and Federal Co-Chair Manchin, for developing this vision. I look forward to continuing ARC’s important work to invest in the success of Appalachian communities.”
ARC’s new strategic plan is also framed around multistate and regional collaboration.
“The success of bringing this strategic plan to life is completely dependent on how well all 13 states and 420 counties in Appalachia can work collaboratively to build upon our past work to bring the Region to the next level,” said Federal Co-Chair Manchin.
“We’ve seen tremendous success in improving the quality of life in the Region, but we have more work to do to bring Appalachia to socioeconomic parity with the rest of the nation. We are committed to working alongside our local, state and federal partners to innovate, partner and invest in our Appalachian Region over the next five years and beyond,” she concluded.
While the goals reflect ARC’s perennial emphasis on economic development, they have evolved based on new insights shared from Appalachian stakeholders regarding challenges and opportunities in light of COVID-19, the ongoing substance use disorder epidemic, and economic diversification, particularly in coal-impacted communities.
Photo of the National Bank building in St. Paul, Virginia is by James Shelton32 via Wikipedia.