Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded nearly $3 million in funds to two organizations in Southwest Virginia to create and train workers for jobs in new sectors of the region’s economy. The funding comes as part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, 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.
“These funds will provide much-needed resources to retrain displaced coal workers and provide them with the skills they need for new jobs in high-demand industries like advanced manufacturing and health technology,” said Sen. Warner. “Investment in these communities will help diversify the region’s economy, and create good-paying, 21stcentury jobs right here in Southwest Virginia.”
Grant amounts and receiving organizations are listed below:
- $1,417,375 ARC grant to Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Cedar Bluff, VA for the Retraining Energy Displaced Individuals (REDI) Center for Dislocated Coal Miners program. The REDI program will provide fast-track reemployment services directly to displaced coal miners — equipping them with the necessary skills to get back to work in a high-demand field, earning comparable wages to their previous employment. Through an intensive, accelerated program of coursework, workers can obtain credentialed skills in as little as four months, rather than the more traditional training periods of a year or more. Training will be focused on three sectors with local employment opportunities: advanced manufacturing, construction, and health technology. The program will certify 165 new trainees over the life of the award, and will be supported by funding from the Thompson Charitable Fund and the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
- $1,500,000 ARC grant to Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, VA for the Central Appalachian Food Enterprise Corridor. This 5-state, 43-county project will develop a coordinated local foods distribution network throughout Central Appalachia, and will connect established and emerging producers in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky to wholesale distribution markets. The ARC award will support planning, partner convening, and capacity building, as well as production and processing equipment, supplies, and labor costs, and will be supported by funding from the Just Transition Fund. The strengthened food corridor will act as regional economic driver — creating 120 jobs, retaining 250 jobs, and ultimately creating 95 new businesses.
In addition, $400,000 was awarded to Pennington Gap and Jonesville as part of 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 in the Commonwealth will receive technical assistance for strategic planning, as well as initial implementation support for the first steps of their plans.