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Inside Information: May–August 1999 Issue

Ideas That Work in Appalachia's Distressed Communities

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is planning a regional conference in October on successful strategies and programs that are improving lives and livelihoods in Appalachia's poorest communities.

Entitled "Ideas That Work," the conference is scheduled to take place at the Oglebay Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, on October 13. The Commission's regular fall meeting will take place the following morning.

Originally proposed by West Virginia Governor Cecil H. Underwood, ARC's 1999 states' co-chairman, the conference is designed to present a positive portrait of "what works" in Appalachia's most economically distressed areas, while at the same time providing an opportunity for the Commission to review and refine future policies and program strategies.

States will present examples of success stories in each of ARC's five goal areas: education and workforce training, physical infrastructure, civic capacity and leadership, dynamic local economies, and health care.

Summit Focuses on New Opportunities in Central Appalachia

Top officials from five federal agencies including ARC joined the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia in an unprecedented conference in Central Appalachia on August 12–13.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Appalachian Summit "New Markets and New Opportunities" brought together federal, state, and community leaders to focus on the needs of Central Appalachia and the potential of reaching out to the private sector to create new markets in the Region.

HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who initially proposed the conference after visits to rural West Virginia and Kentucky last spring, said the meeting offered an unusual opportunity for federal officials in Washington to learn firsthand about the problems of Central Appalachia and to work with other federal, state, and local officials toward common solutions. The conference drew community leaders from throughout Appalachian Kentucky and West Virginia. In addition to ARC and HUD, the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Transportation sent representatives to participate in the two-day meeting.

The summit was held in Ashland, Kentucky (August 12), and Huntington, West Virginia (August 13). ARC Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White Jr. presented a summary of the economic progress and challenges in Appalachia. West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood, Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, HUD Secretary Cuomo, and Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater gave keynote addresses.

West Virginia Bankers Attend Small Business Lending Seminar

More than 30 bankers from 16 counties in southern West Virginia participated at a daylong seminar, "Economic Development through Small Business Lending," on June 23 in Beckley, West Virginia. Sponsored by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and ARC, the seminar provided local bankers with new tools and resources for expanding small business lending in their communities.

West Virginia Governor Cecil H. Underwood, the seminar's keynote speaker, said the conference demonstrated how FDIC and ARC "are working together to provide local banks throughout southern West Virginia with the necessary tools to stimulate economic development through small business lending. As the states' co-chairman of ARC, I applaud this collaborative effort."

ARC Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L.White Jr. joined ARC senior economist Greg Bischak and two FDIC economists in presenting an economic overview of the 16 targeted counties, as well as an assessment of their capital and credit needs. "This kind of information is critically important not only to bankers but also to financial institutions around the country as they come to look at the Appalachian Region as a new marketplace for investment," White said.

The West Virginia counties targeted by the conference were Boone, Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, Webster, and Wyoming. In addition to ARC and FDIC, participating agencies included the West Virginia Development Office, the Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

New State Alternates

Three Appalachian governors have named new state alternates to represent them on the Appalachian Regional Commission. Ohio Governor Bob Taft has selected former state legislator Joy Padgett as director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia and his ARC alternate. North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt Jr. has named James McCleskey, the new director of the North Carolina Washington Office, as his alternate. Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice has named Hayes Dent, currently the governor's director of legislative affairs, as his alternate.

All three state alternates have extensive experience in government service.

A former teacher and a small-business owner, Padgett served four terms in Ohio's legislature representing the state's 95th District, which includes the Appalachian counties of Holmes, Coshocton, and Muskingum.

McCleskey joined Governor Hunt's administration in 1993 as a budget and policy analyst in the North Carolina Department of Human Resources. His work there included the governor's Smart Start and WorkFirst initiatives. He has served in the governor's Washington, D.C., office since 1997.

Dent was named executive advisor to Governor Fordice for agriculture, environment, and natural resources in 1992. He also has served as director of Mississippi's Washington, D.C., office and as the governor's liaison to the Republican Governors Association.

Legislative Update

Before adjourning for the August recess, the House and Senate both passed appropriations bills for ARC's nonhighway program in fiscal year (FY) 2000. A House-Senate conference will work out differences between the two bills.

The Senate approved $71.4 million for ARC's nonhighway programs for the coming fiscal year, while the House-passed measure, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, contains $60 million. (By comparison, in FY 1999 the Commission received $66.4 million for its nonhighway work.) The committee report that accompanied the Senate bill specified that the Senate's $5 million increase is to be allocated for work on an ongoing ARC project in West Virginia.

Unlike in past years, there was no debate on ARC on the floor of either the House or the Senate, reflecting general bipartisan support for the work of the Commission in both bodies.

In FY 1999, for the first time, ARC's highway program is being funded out of the federal Highway Trust Fund as part of last year's omnibus highway legislation, TEA-21. That funding, roughly $400 million a year, will continue in 2000.