U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) applauds the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for investing $1.87 million to help expand and diversify the economy in the coalfields of southern and eastern Kentucky. Together, the projects will help create new jobs, support new businesses, enhance workforce training and education, promote exports of Appalachian-made crafts and products, and boost tourism efforts in the region.
“The ARC continues to help empower southern and eastern Kentuckians through critical funding for projects that will inspire folks to start a dream business, strengthen our STEM education and workforce development efforts, and revitalize tourism in our region,” said Congressman Rogers. “This funding works in concert with the mission of SOAR – Shaping Our Appalchian Region – as we reimagine and diversify our rural communities.”
The Kentucky projects are part of a total ARC investment totaling $15.7 million for 18 projectsin seven Appalachian states.
“Each one of these awards is a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Kentucky.” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Earl F. Gohl. “Together, these investments bring added capital into the Region, and help Appalachia prepare to globally compete in manufacturing, technology, construction, and a variety of other industry sectors.”
The ARC awarded funding through the POWER Initiative (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) for the follow projects:
- $1 million ARC grant to Community Ventures Corporation in Lexington, Kentucky, for the Build Appalachia Loan Fund project. The Build Appalachia Loan Fund will provide affordable capital to educational institutions in Appalachian Kentucky and West Virginia who will own, operate, and manage facilities that are eligible for New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC). The loan fund will provide gap financing for major projects and will attract primary and leveraged financing for the construction or renovation of college facilities. A strategic partner in the Build Appalachia Loan Fund is the Appalachian College Association, a group of 4-year private educational institutions that seek new sources of investment capital. The fund’s focus will be in healthcare-related higher education, given that much of the region is medically underserved and there is strong demand for qualified health professionals. Additional financial support for the fund is being provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and the Opportunity Finance Network. The Build Appalachia Loan Fund will leverage $50 million in private investment in 5 projects, creating 500 new jobs in healthcare related activities.
- $497,305 ARC grant to Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, for the next phase of Shaping Our Appalachian Region Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (SOAR STEM) project. The project’s goal is to develop a highly skilled STEM workforce that can foster job growth and business expansion in an area that has experienced major job losses because of the decline in coal. It has four main areas of focus: upskilling teachers so that they receive National Board Certification; training high school teachers across 27 counties of eastern Kentucky to implement curriculum developed by Project Lead The Way, a nationally recognized developer of K-12 STEM education curricula and professional development; supporting the development of Mentoring Centers–partnerships between industry and local school districts that provide paid internships and mentoring for high school students and connect the future workforce with local employers; and support for maker spaces, entrepreneur hubs, and a Navy Seals coding boot camp that provide hands-on skill training and experience. The program will train over 80 teachers and impact 20,000 students over the first three years of implementation.
- $300,000 ARC grant to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SEKCTC) in Cumberland, Kentucky, for the Selling to the World Initiative. SEKCTC, along with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) and the Discover Downtown Middlesboro Main Street Association, piloted an initiative in 2015 targeting eastern Kentucky artisans and craftspeople whose products are the type and quality that could support internet-based businesses for world-wide marketing and sales. The Initiative seeks to boost the region’s economy—which has been adversely affected major job losses in the coal industry—by growing local businesses, strengthening the entrepreneurial support system, helping “brand” products from the region, and promoting exports. The two-year launch phase of the initiative was privately funded by the New York Community Trust. The ARC investment will continue this activity, concentrating on artisan businesses from four coal-impacted eastern Kentucky counties, one county from northeast Tennessee, and one from southwest Virginia. The program for artists and craft makers is expected to help create 30 new jobs and leverage $297,000 in private investment.
- $80,000 ARC technical assistance grant for Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, Inc. in Somerset, Kentucky for the Restoring PRIDE in Kentucky’s Appalachia project. PRIDE, along with The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, and Union College, will develop a tourism-based strategic plan for 41 counties in eastern Kentucky, an area impacted by the downturn in the coal industry. By the end of the 12-month technical assistance, the partners will decide upon a branding plan to attract public and private investment for increased economic activity via joint marketing initiatives, new branding, and heritage tourism activities. Restoring PRIDE in Kentucky’s Appalachiawill help current businesses to increase their revenue and provide support to at least 20 new entrepreneurs within the project area over the next three years. The project partners will work to leverage at least $500,000 to invest into the implementation of the branding plan.
For more information, visit arc.gov.