PIKEVILLE, KY, September 16, 2021: Today, Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) was awarded $50,000 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to build capacity around recently passed legislation that allows Rural Energy Cooperatives in Kentucky to provide broadband services in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, and Whitley counties. This legislation, coupled with Eastern Kentucky’s strong network of cooperatives, positions the region to develop a potential national best practice for rural last-mile deployment.
This award is part of a nearly $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.
“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”
“SOAR has no higher organizational priority than deploying last-mile broadband across its 54 counties. We’re grateful to the ARC and its POWER initiative for accepting our planning grant application focused on creating the playbook for how Kentucky nonprofit electric cooperatives can work with last-mile providers to get this job done,” said SOAR Executive Director Colby Hall. “By finding creative ways to leverage existing infrastructure, SOAR believes it’s possible to find more economical methods for connecting unserved and underserved communities across its service territory.”
Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create/retain over 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region.
ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.
About Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR)
Shaping Our Appalachian Region (soar-ky.org) is a regional nonpartisan nonprofit that champions local projects, programs, and advocacy for the 54 ARC-mandated counties in Appalachia Kentucky.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
The Appalachian Regional Commission (arc.gov) is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.