JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Three local projects are set to receive grant funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
The ARC on Thursday announced $54 million in awards to 64 projects in 217 counties through its Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, which directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachia.
It’s the largest single POWER awards package since the initiative launched in 2015, according to the ARC.
“From workforce training and agriculture, to downtown development and broadband expansion, the projects receiving grants in this round of POWER funding show that the future of Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities is economically diverse and innovative,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said in a release. “Projects like these are resulting in life-changing transformations, which in turn, not only provides new economic opportunities, but brings a renewed sense of hope and purpose across our Appalachian Region.”
The awards package includes more than $2 million for three projects in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia:
The ARC awarded a $50,000 grant to Bristol’s Promise: Youth Networking Alliance for the “Pathways to Success” project. The project, in partnership with the Appalachian Promise Alliance, will develop a “soft skills” program that will focus on areas such as time management, conflict resolution, and teamwork, which can be applied across all employers.
The Town of Big Stone Gap was awarded $1.2 million for an infrastructure project at the Big Cherry Lake. The project will involve developing water, sewer, and utility connections to a newly constructed general store, campsites, and restrooms to serve day and overnight visitors, according to the ARC. That means installing 4,400 feet of water and sewer line, a 10,000 gallon water tank, and a 5,000-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant.
“Big Cherry Reservoir is one of the many beautiful sites in Southwest Virginia, attracting a number of visitors every year,” Congressman Morgan Griffith said in a release. “These funds awarded by ARC will allow the Big Cherry Reservoir to expand their camping and lodging amenities to accommodate more visitors to the recreation area.”
The ARC awarded $980,000 to Friends of Southwest Virginia in Abingdon for the “Southwest Virginia Creative Economy and Tourism Workforce Initiative.” The project will involve developing a hospitality and tourism workforce training initiative, enhancements to the Visit SWVA website, market research, and a national Southwest Virginia branding campaign featuring the region’s cultural and outdoor experiences.
According to the ARC, the project will create 48 new businesses and 245 jobs while retaining 9,782 jobs. It will also serve and improve 450 businesses, 56 communities, and 900 participants and leverage $3.8 million of private investment over the course of the three-year project.