PIKEVILLE — The Appalachian Regional Commission recently awarded nearly $46.4 million in grants to many coal-impacted communities across Appalachia, including several in Eastern Kentucky, for the purposes of workforce training and education, promoting entrepreneurship and supporting infrastructure.

ARC invested the grants through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. These 57 projects will create and retain 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments and be matched by over $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the region, according to ARC.

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments are critical in leveling the economic playing field so Appalachian communities can thrive.”

One of the grants, worth $50,000, was awarded to the City of Pikeville to identify new tourism opportunities with the Breaks Interstate Park. The City will contribute an additional $12,500 to produce a comprehensive study of the Breaks’ potential to become a major outdoor recreational attraction.

“Pikeville is proud to offer an authentic Eastern Kentucky experience for visitors seeking to enjoy the great outdoors. This federal award is the first step to expanding our many attractions to drive tourism and economic engagement in our community,” Pikeville Mayor Jimmy Carter said. “Across the region, Kentuckians already look to Pikeville as a destination for education, medicine and development. Now, through our partnership with the Breaks Interstate Park, we look forward to enhancing our outdoor experiences for families, thrill seekers and more.”

Big Sandy Community and Technical College also received a grant, worth $1,161,684, which it will use to create the East Kentucky Welding Technology and AWS Training Center. This center will increase welding and fabrication training and certification in the area.

“We are absolutely delighted to provide high quality technical education for the hardworking people of Eastern Kentucky," BSCTC President Sherry Zylka said. "With ARC’s support, we are leveraging our resources to create a competitive workforce in our resilient region.”

Pikeville Medical Center received a grant, worth $508,076, to equip its Medical Training Facility and Career Development Center project. The facility will help train 1,700 clinical workers, create 15 jobs, and improve two businesses. It will also strengthen employment longevity and increase graduation rates by joining students and medical staff in activities and programs as co-participants.

Another grant, worth $50,000, was awarded to Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) for a last-mile broadband study to evaluate how to best utilize Appalachian Kentucky’s Rural Energy Cooperative Corporations (RECC) and their existing infrastructure, in order to bring high-speed internet to remaining unserved and underserved areas across Eastern Kentucky. The study area includes 13 counties and over 74,600 electric cooperative members.

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) received a grant worth $1.5 million for technical assistance to businesses and communities in order to build entrepreneurship in key economic sectors. The project will serve 1,240 businesses and create 180 jobs.

In a statement, Congressman Hal Rogers expressed how significant these grants are for helping the region, especially following the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"These investments from the ARC are a silver lining in a dismal year, as Kentucky's Appalachian region battles the COVID pandemic and the impact that it continues to have in the heart of coal country,” Rogers said. “Our region desperately needs these investments that focus on challenges specific to our current and former coal-producing communities, especially broadband expansion, job creation and career development, boosting tourism efforts, helping individuals in recovery and much more. This is one of the many reasons why Senator (Mitch) McConnell and I have gone to bat for the ARC year after year, saving this commission from being abolished by several U.S. Presidents."

Since 2015, ARC has invested over $287 million in 362 projects touching 353 counties across Appalachia through the POWER Initiative. Together, these investments are projected to create or retain nearly 35,000 jobs, leverage more than $1.5 billion in additional private investment into Appalachia’s economy, and prepare tens of thousands of workers and students for opportunities in entrepreneurship, broadband development, tourism and other industry sectors, according to ARC.

A complete list of all POWER grants is available at, www.arc.gov/power. ARC plans to announce additional POWER projects later this year.

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