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Farewell Message from the Federal Co-Chairman

by Jesse L. White Jr.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As my nine-year tenure with ARC draws to a close, I want to thank all of the ARC family for the opportunities we have created together to serve the almost 23 million people in this wonderful region we call Appalachia. I especially want to thank the governors of Appalachia for our productive and rich working relationship throughout my tenure. ARC has served both our region and the nation well. Through our work, Appalachia has moved much closer to the mainstream of our national economy and its great prosperity; and the Commission has provided America and the world with innovative and successful models of economic development.

We began with our new strategic vision in 1995–96, involving a year-long assessment of how our region and the world had changed since our founding in 1965, and how the Commission itself had to change to help bring Appalachia into the twenty-first century. That new plan has directed our work for the past seven years by targeting ARC investments to the building blocks of sustainable economic development: education and training, infrastructure, leadership development, health care, economic diversification, and telecommunications.

Our new plan was widely praised and laid the groundwork for the first full reauthorizations of ARC in almost 20 years, for record-level appropriations for our Appalachian Development Highway System, and for the ARC model serving as the basis for other regional commissions in the Delta, Great Plains, and Alaska. It also led us to the Commission's historic targeting of resources to those areas in greatest need, a policy that called on more successful areas within Appalachia to sacrifice for those left behind. All of our states have answered that call and created tremendous progress in moving counties and areas out of the status of distress.

The strategic plan was followed by successful regional initiatives in telecommunications, leadership development, export promotion, and entrepreneurship. These initiatives addressed problems sweeping across our vast region and led to innovative programming that has left lasting imprints of progress on hundreds of our communities. I am especially proud of the entrepreneurship initiative, now in its fifth year, as we work on the complex problem of creating a more homegrown, entrepreneurial economy in a region too long characterized by branch plants and external control.

The key to ARC's success is our rich partnership among the federal government, state governments, local planning and development districts, localities, the private sector, and nonprofits. This partnership is imbedded in our governance structures; but it transcends these formalities. It creates an ARC "family" of thousands of people committed to working together for the benefit of every mountaintop and valley in this great old mountain range. This spirit must endure in order for ARC to finish its critical job.

As the longest-serving federal co-chairman in ARC's history, I consider this position to have been the greatest honor and opportunity of my life. I want to thank the entire ARC family here at headquarters, in the states, and at the local level for their support and hard work. I also want to thank former President Clinton for appointing me to this position and President Bush for allowing me to continue in office to ensure a smooth transition. Special thanks go to our congressional delegation of both parties for their heroic efforts on behalf of ARC.

I know that Anne Pope and Rick Peltz will do a great job in their respective capacities as federal co-chairman and alternate federal co-chairman. I wish them every success as they take office and as I return to my consulting practice and to university life. I know that when their tenure is over at ARC they will feel emotions and thoughts similar to mine: it has been a wonderful labor of love.


Jesse L. White Jr.