Federal Agencies Join ARC in New Initiative to Aid Appalachia
[This release was amended as indicated in italics on June 27, 2012.]
ABINGDON, VIRGINIA, November 12, 2010—Eight federal agencies have joined the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in forming the Appalachian Regional Development Initiative (ARDI), an unprecedented partnership to energize economic development in Appalachia. [Note: As of June 27, 2012, 13 federal agencies have joined the ARDI partnership with ARC.]
Led by U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen A. Merrigan and ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, representatives of the agencies gathered in Abingdon, Virginia, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center today to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the initiative.
The MOU lays out an action plan to bolster interagency collaboration in strengthening and diversifying the Appalachian economy. It outlines short-term goals to assist with immediate capacity needs in the Appalachian Region as well as long-term goals that build new funding strategies for a variety of development projects in physical infrastructure, education, civic capacity, and health.
Merrigan welcomed the initiative: "The families, businesses and communities of the Appalachian Region deserve a government that is unified and committed to improving the economic opportunity and quality of life for everyone. Today, we are reaffirming that commitment, with a special focus on economic development and job creation."
Gohl stated that the initiative was "part of the Obama Administration's ongoing commitment to create jobs and to make sure Appalachia is a part of America's economic recovery."
As a first step in implementing the MOU, the assembled officials announced a series of technical workshops in the Region that will assist communities in accessing new funding sources to spur economic growth.
The agencies (in addition to the Appalachian Regional Commission) signing the MOU at the Abingdon event included:
- United States Department of Agriculture
- United States Department of Commerce
- United States Department of Education
- United States Department of Health and Human Services
- United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
- United States Environmental Protection Agency
- United States Department of Transportation
- United States Small Business Administration
An economic assessment prepared for the signatories noted that Appalachia remains below the national average on a wide range of key indicators; it suffers from high rates of unemployment, disability, health disparities, and poverty, and low rates of per capita incomes and college graduation. The assessment concluded that the combination of these challenges has greatly hindered economic development in Appalachia.
Abingdon, Virginia, was selected to host the signing of the MOU because it is in the heart of Appalachia and is a growing center of the kind of regional approaches to economic development underscored by the ARDI—whether in telecommunications, physical infrastructure, or workforce development. It is also one of the sites included in the Crooked Road: Virginia's Music Heritage Trail, an Appalachian tourism project that owes its success in generating income and jobs to collaborative efforts across ten counties, three cities, ten towns, five regional planning districts, four state agencies, two tourism organizations, and a large number of music venues.
Full text of the ARDI memorandum of understanding (PDF: 641 KB)
This MOU includes participating agencies as of June 27, 2012. Additional agencies may join the MOU in the future.