Federal grants support economic transition efforts for eastern Kentucky

KFTC members are applauding the Obama administration’s commitment to a just economic transition for eastern Kentucky through the investments in people and communities reflected in several Power Initiative grants announced today.

“This is an affirmation of the people and communities all throughout eastern Kentucky who are trying to go forward, make a just transition and diversify our economy,” said Carl Shoupe, a retired coal miner from Harlan County. “We thank President Obama for keeping his promise and recognize, as he said, this is a down payment. These grants will help but they address only a smidgeon of the opportunities we have.”

More than $14.5 million in grants are part of the administration’s effort to assist communities affected by changes in the coal industry and power sector in 12 states and tribal nations seeking to build a more diversified and better economic future for their communities. More than 50% of that money will come to Kentucky.

The grants come from multiple federal agencies, with the goal of “effectively aligning, leveraging and targeting a range of federal economic and workforce development programs and resources to assist communities.” The announcement from the White House also termed the grants as a “down payment” toward the roughly $10 billion investment in coal communities, workers and technology the administration has proposed in next year’s federal budget.

Shoupe noted that it will take Congress to act to fully fund these initiatives.

“There is so much good work happening in the region, and these grants are a drop in the bucket. A lot more could be done by Congress passing the Power+ Initiative. What we really need is for Rep. (Hal) Rogers to put his shoulder to the wheel and help pass the president’s Power+ Plan. That would help the whole region.”

The grants announced for Kentucky on Thursday are:

  • $3,000,075 to the Kentucky, Cabinet for Finance and Administration for the Unleashing the POWER of the I-Way! project to maximize the economic development opportunities that emerge from the build out of broadband infrastructure in eastern Kentucky. It will invest in local Internet access centers and will provide e-commerce training and community fiber readiness consulting and support. E-teams will work with industry partnerships, individual companies and entrepreneurs to improve their marketing, product development, production efficiency and process improvement.
  • $468,710 to the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development in Elizabethtown for the Local Food Supply Chain Development in Eastern Kentucky project. The project will comprehensively map the food supply chains currently in place in the region, the gaps in those chains, and what opportunities can result from filling in those gaps and creating new economic opportunities.
  • $1,200,000 to West Case Substance Abuse Treatment in Ashcamp (Pike County) for the WestCare Kentucky Economic Development Project. This project includes the renovation of a former school to serve as a residential childcare center and substance abuse treatment center for women. The center will provide health care and ongoing workforce development services for clients from across the Central Appalachian region.
  • $200,000 EDA grant to Appalshop, in Whitesburg for Mines to Minds: The Southeast Kentucky High Tech Workforce Certificate Project. The project will develop a one-year IT workforce certificate program targeted to communities affected by the reduction in coal employment.
  • $100,000 to the Perry County Fiscal Court in Hazard for the Southeastern Kentucky Economic HUB Opportunities Diversification Implementation Project. This project will fund a position that coordinates implementation of the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy across targeted industry clusters, while leveraging existing resources to invest in skills development and job placement for dislocated workers.
  • $80,000 to the Kentucky River Area Development District in Hazard to fund an inventory of existing businesses in the region.
  • $100,000 to Berea College to supplement Promise Zone efforts to develop a collective impact strategy to fully engage Opportunity Youth in the work of economic transition.
  • $160,000 to Hopkins County Fiscal Court to undertake a multi-phased integrated effort to clearly identify and assess the regional impact of changes in the coal and power industries while developing a long-term economic diversification and growth plan.
  • $274,500 to the Big Sandy Area Development District in Prestonsburg to market its revolving loan fund, develop its resource network, scope industry cluster/sector strategies, and provide entrepreneurial service provider networking and coordination.
  • $2,000,000 to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to provide training, work-based learning, and supportive services to dislocated coal miners and other dislocated workers impacted by mass layoffs in the coal industry, to retrain for high-demand, high wage positions in broadband service, fiber installation and IT.