HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — On Wednesday, officials announced nearly $39 million in funding for 29 projects throughout the Appalachians geared toward stimulating ecomonic development in the coal fields.
These 29 awards were made as a part of the Obama Administration’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative to stimulate economic growth and opportunity in communities that have historically relied on the coal economy for economic stability. With this announcement, communities and regions that have been negatively affected by changes in the coal economy are able to strengthen their economies and workforces.
Several awards were received for projects that benefit Mingo and surrounding counties. These awards include: A $1,648,400 EDA grant to Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) and Mingo County Public Service District in Williamson, W.Va. for the Mingo County Air Transportation Park Infrastructure Improvements project. The project will provide potable water to the Mingo County Air Transportation Park atop a reclaimed surface mine in the center of the county, which MCRA is positioning as an industrial site for light and advanced manufacturers. It will include construction of approximately 62 thousand feet of water line, a 500 gallon-per-minute booster pumping station, a one-million-gallon water storage tank, and other related equipment, as well as an on-site sewage, aeration, and absorption system. The project will create and retain 520 jobs and leverage $9,000,000 in additional investment.
A $1,372,275 ARC grant was awarded to the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority in Man, WV for the Southern Coalfields Sustainable Tourism & Entrepreneurship Program. ARC funds will develop and implement a comprehensive program to expand tourism-related employment and businesses in southern West Virginia, and will foster Hatfield McCoy Trail expansion in Kentucky and Virginia. In addition, the award provides for the deployment of a coordinated marketing effort, which will increase the region-wide economic impact of the Trails by $13,000,000 per year. The project will create 225 jobs and 50 new businesses along the Trails, and will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
A $1,870,000 ARC grant will go to the Coalfield Development Corporation in Wayne, WV for the Appalachian Social Entrepreneurship Investment Strategy. ARC funds will be used to incubate job-creating social enterprises; scale-up Coalfield Development Corporation’s innovative 33-6-3 on-the-job training/education/life skills workforce development model; and expand Coalfield Development Corporation’s service territory to other coal-impacted areas in Southern West Virginia. The award will create 85 new jobs and equip 60 trainees to pursue quality jobs in high-demand industries in the Appalachian Region, and will be supported by funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
A $200,000 ARC grant will go to the West Virginia Development Office for the Hobet Strategic Plan. West Virginia will receive technical assistance to develop a detailed economic assessment and strategic plan for the best use of the Hobet Surface Mine Site in Boone and Lincoln Counties, previously the largest surface mining operation in the state.
$750,000 was awarded to continue a collaborative effort with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal partners to research opioid abuse and related problems of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) in Appalachia’s coal communities.
$400,000 was awarded for a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand the Cool & Connected Initiative to help 10 Appalachian coal-impacted communities use broadband service to revitalize small-town main streets and promote economic development. Participating communities will receive technical assistance for strategic planning, as well as initial implementation support for the first steps of their plans. The communities are located in Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The POWER Initiative is a multi-agency effort aligning and targeting federal economic and workforce development resources to communities and workers 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. The POWER Initiative is part of President Obama’s POWER+ Plan, a broader set of investments in coal-impacted communities, workers, and coal technology proposed in the President’s FY 2017 budget. Today’s awards were granted from the $65.8 million in POWER funding announced by ARC and EDA in March, 2016.
Most of the awards announced today are the first to be awarded from a competitive POWER federal funding opportunity released in March of this year by the ARC and EDA to provide implementation, planning and technical assistance grants in support of projects in coal-impacted communities that propose to do one or more of the following:
• Diversify the commercial and industrial base of local and regional economies;
• Create jobs in new and/or existing industries;
• Attract new sources of private and public investment; and
• Provide a range of workforce services and skills training for high-quality, in-demand jobs.
(Editor Kyle Lovern and Staff Writer Courtney Harrison contributed to this article.)