Central Appalachia has an opportunity. It’s up to us to not to blow it.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will be releasing a notice in the coming weeks that $50 million will be available this fiscal year for projects that will help rebuild the economies of Appalachian communities suffering from the decline of the coal industry.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration will have an additional $15 million available for coal-impacted communities across the nation.
It’s part of what’s called the POWER+ initiative, a coordinated effort among multiple federal agencies to provide coordinated investments in communities negatively impacted by changes in the power sector.
After years of advocating for this investment by the federal government, our friends at ARC are now faced with the daunting task of using these funds as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve measureable positive change in these struggling communities.
As ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl said at a meeting in Charleston last month, “We are the dog that caught the bus.”
And there is a possibility that there will be another $50 million available through ARC to help rebuild Appalachian communities in FY 2017.
Not that $100 million is nearly enough to rebuild the deeply traumatized communities and economies of the region. It is, however, a resource we didn’t have before that will move us in the right direction – if we use if properly.
On February 24, stakeholders from across West Virginia who care about the future of these coal-impacted communities gathered to discuss how best to take advantage of this opportunity.
More than 60 organizations and agencies were represented, and the day-long meeting began a process with the following goals:
1. Build collaborative teams that will develop and implement effective projects.
2. Identify strategies to raise the required matching funds.
3. Reduce overlap and redundancies in proposals, and identify gaps.
4. Develop a map of the various projects that will demonstrate the strategic approach the many partners are taking.
5. Identify what technical assistance applicants may need, and secure that help.
6. Ensure that West Virginia is submitting proposals for a significant portion of the available funding. The goal in FY 2016 is to submit $25 million in proposals.
This is messy and complex work. It requires trust between the partners, and a highly collaborative approach.
It requires an openness and transparency that one seldom sees in competitive grant opportunities.
But here’s the thing: If this funding motivates West Virginia stakeholders to collaborate, strategize, and think bigger and bolder about building stronger and more diverse economies in our communities, the benefits of POWER + will continue to be seen years after the money is gone.
If you care about the future of West Virginia’s coalfield communities and are considering pursuing a POWER+ grant, get in touch with me now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are people and organizations waiting right now to collaborate with you and build strong, regional projects that have the best chance of attracting POWER + funding.
I look forward to hearing from you.