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Feds send over $12 million in economic development grants to Kentucky’s SOAR region

As part of the work of Shaping our Appalachian Region, grants totaling more than $12 million were announced for projects in Kentucky Wednesday.

With these investments, more than 400 jobs will be created in our region along with almost $40 million in economic impact and leveraged project funding.


Here’s a closer look at the grants:

— $2,750,000 ARC grant to the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) in Hazard for the TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) Initiative: Developing a Technology-Driven Workforce project. The project will serve young adults aged 17-29 who are out of school, and older adults who are unemployed, laid-off, or underemployed by offering several avenues to industry-led accelerated technology training, paid work-based internships, and employment opportunities in IT careers. This comprehensive workforce development program will train 200 new workers, create 160 jobs, and serve to bolster existing and emerging sectors that rely on a skilled information technology workforce in 23 Eastern Kentucky counties. The program will provide the trained workers necessary for a private technology company to expand its operations into Eastern Kentucky.

— $2,500,000 ARC grant to the University of Pikeville for the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO). EDA is also awarding $4,974,100 as part of this project. ARC funds will be used to purchase equipment, instructional supplies, and other materials to help launch a new College of Optometry. The college will both grow the healthcare workforce and improve access to vision care in Central Appalachia. KYCO will be only the second optometry college in the Appalachian Region, and will primarily serve Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia. Within the first three years of the award, KYCO will graduate 60 optometrists, provide care to 12,000 patients, and bring $26,000,000 in direct economic impact to the regional economy.

— $2,022,133 ARC grant to the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) in Berea, KY for the Economic Transition for Eastern Kentucky (ETEK) Initiative. The ARC award will expand fast-track retraining and entrepreneurial technical assistance services targeted to dislocated coal workers; establish an intern program aimed at placing former coal workers in the energy efficiency sector; and increase access to capital through a $1,000,000 venture capital loan fund. The project will create 200 new jobs and 100 new enterprises, serve 500 existing businesses, and bring $12,000,000 in leveraged financing to a 54-county region in Eastern Kentucky.

— $1,464,251 ARC grant to the University of Kentucky Research Foundation in Lexington for the Downtown Revitalization in the Promise Zone project. The ARC award — partnering with the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, the Kentucky Promise Zone, Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), and the Kentucky Mainstreet Program – will help revitalize the downtowns of 8 distressed towns in the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone.

The project will provide each community with tailored economic studies that identify economic opportunities, support strategic planning sessions to capitalize on those oppor$tunities, provide financial support for key steps to implement those strategies, and build local leadership and business capacity. The project will create 24 new downtown businesses, 72 new jobs, and leverage $800,000 in private investment.

The Obama administration announced a total of $38.8 million in funding for 29 projects to help revitalize coal communities in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas and Alabama that have been affected by its anti-coal policies aimed at thwarting climate change and other factors that have hurt the coal industry.

“These investments are going to make a difference in coal-impacted Appalachian communities,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl said in a conference call with journalists.

The grants will come from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. They agencies project that the money will create 3,418 jobs and an additional $67 million leveraged through investments from other public and private partners.

Other major awards are:

— $2,500,000 in grants to the Bluewell Public Service District in Bluefield, W.Va., for improvement of the Mercer County Regional Airport.

— $2,285,049 EDA grant to the Upshur County Development Authority in Buckhannon, W.Va., for a center to help small businesses and provide broadband access.

— $2,196,450 ARC grant to the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education in Charleston, W.Va., for “EntreEd K-14: Every Student, Every Year.”

— $2,000,000 ARC grant to Ohio University for “Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability.”

From SOAR Communications

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