The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded more than $2.5 million in grants to communities in Southwest Virginia to help fund broadband infrastructure expansion, and incentivize workforce development and job growth through the ARC’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative.
“As our economy recovers from the impacts of COVID-19, it is critical to invest in Appalachia,” said Gov. Ralph S. Northam, who was elected by Appalachia’s 13 governors to serve as the ARC’s states’ co-chair for 2021. “ARC’s POWER initiative will continue to build on the region’s strengths and address its challenges, driving growth and opportunity throughout Appalachia,” Northam said in a statement, adding that these projects demonstrate how regional collaboration “can spur innovation, encourage entrepreneurs, diversify the economy, and support the critical infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide, all of which strengthen Appalachian communities.”
ARC is a federal agency focused on economic development in the Appalachian region. A congressionally funded program, the ARC POWER Initiative was designed to help communities and regions 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. To date, the program has funded 57 projects across 184 counties with a total of $46.4 million.
Among the organizations approved for grants in this latest round is the Virginia Coalfield Coalition, which will receive $1 million to help fund the construction of six new, fiber-lit cell towers along a 20-mile stretch off U.S. Route 460, and Appalachian Community Capital and partners ($1.5 million) to boost high-quality community development and entrepreneurial opportunities.
“These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive,” said Gayle Manchin, ARC’s Federal co-chair.
Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.