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Appalachian Regional Commission announces $26M investment in coal communities

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced a nearly $26 million investment to diversify and expand the economies of communities affected by the downturn of coal.

The economic development agency, which represents 13 states and the federal government and focuses on 420 Appalachian counties, said 28 awards would create or retain more than 2,500 jobs and train 7,300 workers in the region.

"These investments capitalize on the growing momentum for a diverse economy in Appalachia," said ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl. "They are strategic, collaborative, and impactful projects making the region more competitive in technology, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, broadband, health, and a variety of other sectors."

The projects include a $3.5 million grant to eastern Kentucky community colleges to develop a digitally focused workforce and about $1.9 million to a community college in Alabama to create a rapid training center for industrial and healthcare jobs. A further $1.5 million will go to other job training services in Alabama.

A $1.5 million grant in Huntington, W.Va., will help businesses adopt technology like 3-D printing and additive manufacturing to return to profitability. Roughly $1.3 million will go to a nonprofit industry association of manufacturers in Appalachian Virginia to help coal supply chain manufacturers cut costs.

In Pennsylvania, more than $1.2 million will go to promoting entrepreneurial spaces in Altoona, while another $1.2 million will go to the United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Inc. in Prosperity to assist in workforce training.