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Region to receive nearly $5M in ARC grants

Hank Hayes • Oct 8, 2019 at 9:30 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Appalachian Regional Commission announced a $44.4 million investment package on Tuesday to expand and diversify the economy in Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities with nearly $5 million in grants coming to our region.

The ARC’s investments are being made through its Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative.

These 54 awards are projected to create or retain more than 5,700 jobs, leverage more than $39 million in private investment, create and/or retain 2,940 businesses, and train thousands of workers and students within the broadband, entrepreneurship, substance abuse recovery, tourism and other industry sectors across coal-impacted communities in nine Appalachian states.

The awards include:

* A $1.5 million grant to Northeast State Community College in Blountville for its Advancing Aviation Technology project. Through a partnership with Tri-Cities Airport, the project seeks to build a reliable workforce pipeline of trained and certified aviation maintenance professionals in support of regional economic development priorities. It will expand NSCC’s Aviation Technology program, relocate the program to a new hangar at the airport, and secure Federal Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant program certification. This includes constructing a new hangar in the adjacent airport, acquiring instructional equipment, improving program outreach, revising curriculum, and creating jobs by hiring faculty. Over three years, the project will serve eight businesses while training 72 students. The project is also a prerequisite for the success of Tri-Cities Airport’s Aerospace Park project, which is expected to create up to 2,000 jobs in the aviation maintenance and manufacturing sector.

* A $1.5 million grant to the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board in Lebanon for the Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success project. The project will create a recovery-to-employment ecosystem that combines substance abuse disorder recovery and treatment with workforce development and re-employment opportunities. The program will provide upskilling and work-based learning opportunities while at the same time developing a menu of recovery services focused on the post-treatment to employment continuum. The project is expected to make the workforce of Southwest Virginia healthier and more competitive as the region strives to overcome the opioid crisis and revitalize an economy that has been heavily dependent on coal. Guided by the Workforce Board’s Business Services Team, the program will work with employers to foster understanding and support for recovery-safe work environments. The project will serve and improve 25 businesses, 90 workers/trainees will obtain new employment, and four new jobs for case managers and certified peer recovery specialists will be created.

* A $862,017 grant to Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville for the utility’s rural broadband project. The project will install 25.9 miles of fiberoptic cable on HEC’s existing power poles to provide service to areas not covered by a broadband or cable provider in Hawkins County’s Goshen Valley. A number of employers in the region use the work-at-home model for portions of their workforce. HEC projects that several households in this service area are a part of this model, and greater broadband access will give this community access to online education, training, and/or retraining to expand this job market. The new fiber network will make broadband service available to 133 businesses and 600 households and create 20 new jobs over three years. In addition to farms and businesses, the expanded coverage will serve multiple churches, a school and a fire department.

* A $342,646 grant to Erwin Utilities for the Northern Unicoi County broadband project. The project will enable Erwin Utilities to install 16.8 miles of fiberoptic cable on existing power poles and provide high-speed broadband to businesses and residential subscribers in areas of Unicoi County that are not covered by a broadband or cable provider. With an increasing number of businesses utilizing telework employment, expanded infrastructure will allow more residents to pursue remote work from home. Within three years, the project is expected to expand broadband access for 14 businesses and 488 residents. Erwin Utilities also projects the expansion will increase the number of businesses in the service area, resulting in three new businesses and 15 additional jobs. The project builds on an existing fiber network, a portion of which was supported by a previous grant.

* A $588,072 grant to Southwest Virginia Community College in Cedar Bluff for the school’s Automotive Service Excellence Center. The project will create a credit-based, fast-track curriculum to prepare students for entry-level automobile technician positions. Students will receive certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Education. Rapid changes within the automotive, heavy-duty truck, and diesel engine fields have created a strong demand for workers with training and certification in the latest technologies, but no specialized training opportunities currently exist within an hour’s drive of SVCC. As a result of the grant, at least 59 students will obtain jobs or will still be enrolled in the program at the end of the three-year project period, 25 workers/trainees will have enhanced positions, and five businesses will be improved.

* A $50,000 grant to the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission in Duffield for the Technology Innovation Ecosystem for Rural Water Systems project. This pilot project will identify innovative and emerging technologies that can be scaled to monitor and evaluate small, rural public water systems for potential leaks. It will include a strategic analysis of existing leak detection technologies in both real and simulated testing environments. It can provide an immediate cost savings to the Wise County Public Service Authority, reducing water loss costs that are typically absorbed by the customer base. 

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