Appalachian Commission distributes $46 million for projects

MATEWAN, W.Va. (AP) — The Appalachian Regional Commission is granting more than $46 million for 57 economic projects in 10 states to promote workforce training and entrepreneurship and improve broadband.

The projects will support “economic diversification” in the Appalachian region’s coal-impacted communities. The funding, which comes from the agency’s POWER Initiative, will reach 184 counties, the group said Thursday.

“These projects demonstrate how regional collaboration can spur innovation, encourage entrepreneurs, diversify our economy, and support the critical infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the group’s co-chair, said in a media release.

West Virginia landed 14 projects, including about $5 million in funding for broadband projects. Kentucky received 11 projects, Ohio 10 and Pennsylvania nine.

The POWER Initiative is funded by Congress, and since it launched in 2015, it has invested nearly $290 million in 362 projects throughout Appalachia, according to the commission. It is designed to support regions that have been affected by job losses in the coal industry. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants have shuttered over the last decade, and last year the industry recorded its lowest production levels since 1965.

The commission said the funding announced Thursday is expected to create or retain more than 9,000 jobs, according to the media release.

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