Major broadband developments announced

Cellular Tower in West Virginia.
Cellular Tower in West Virginia.
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 11:14 AM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced $43.3 million across 51 projects. $5.8 million of these funds will help with projects in West Virginia.

The Appalachian Regional Commission says this will support economic diversification in the region’s coal-impacted communities. Over half of the funds will go to recovery-to-work efforts and broadband infrastructure.

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced additional funding through their POWER grant program on Wednesday. POWER stands for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. This helps communities that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

“Communities impacted by the downturn of coal have been doubly impacted by the effects of COVID-19-related measures on their local economies. It is more important than ever to support resilient Appalachian communities in their economic recovery, and this round of POWER grantees are developing innovative and transformative approaches to benefit the Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Many of the projects announced today will invest in expanded broadband infrastructure, proven throughout this year to be a critical factor in economic parity. All of them will support tools and training to get the Appalachian economy back to work.”

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) announced seven projects totaling $5,844,534 from the ARC Partnerships for POWER program.

“I have always said that West Virginians are the most hardworking people, they just need a chance to prove it. ARC has given our state that chance, with over $52 million in investments from the POWER grant program since 2015. These awards will support projects to expand broadband access, implement substance use disorder peer recovery programs, and support economic development across the state. This year’s POWER awards are yet another example of the strong partnership between West Virginia and ARC, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of these projects for years to come,” said Senator Joe Manchin.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams says, The Thundercloud project is the virtual ribbon that will tie everything together to make Huntington the economic gateway of the Appalachian region. This will position Huntington to compete with all other cities across the world. In 10 years, this will be noted as the one announcement that set the economic transformation forward for Huntington and its citizens. We also owe a significant debt of thanks to Sen. Robert Plymale, who has shepherded the Thundercloud project along with expert efficiency and leadership. In addition, we have a great deal of gratitude for Gov. Jim Justice, who strongly supported Thundercloud’s grant application, Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Congresswoman Carol Miller.”

Individual awards listed below:

  • $2,353,788Thundercloud for a 25-mile fiber loop that will connect Barboursville to downtown Huntington
  • $1,499,894Region 4 Planning and Development Council for a recovery-to-work program focused on social entrepreneurship in the food sector
  • $1,360,852Region II Planning and Development Council for a tri-state aviation maintenance technician program, working with Marshall and Mountwest Community College
  • $480,000 – Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center to implement a peer navigator/recovery coach model for working with persons with substance use disorder
  • $50,000 – Appalachian Forest Heritage Area to develop a business plan for a volunteer trail maintenance center and program
  • $50,000 – Wheeling National Heritage Area to conduct a feasibility study to transform four sites along Main Street into a “Heritage Gateway” for the downtown core
  • $50,000 – New River Gorge Regional Development Authority for a strategic plan to support the aerospace industry

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