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Inside Information: January–April 1999 Issue

Appalachian Governors Meet in Washington

Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White Jr. and West Virginia Governor Cecil H. Underwood, ARC's 1999 states' co-chairman, presided jointly over a meeting of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on February 21 in Washington, D.C. Governors of 12 Appalachian states attended the meeting, including four newly elected governors—Don Siegelman of Alabama, Roy Barnes of Georgia, Bob Taft of Ohio, and James Hodges of South Carolina. At the meeting, the Commission approved resolutions on state planning requirements, the allocation of ARC funds, and the designation of economically distressed counties.

Governor Underwood, who also served as West Virginia's governor in the late 1950s, recalled participating in a 1959 meeting of governors from West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky that paved the way for regional cooperation in Appalachia and, ultimately, the creation of the Commission in 1965. "We all know how much we benefit [from regional cooperation]," said Underwood. "I am particularly honored to serve this year as the states' co-chair of ARC."

Federal Co-Chairman White reported that ARC last year completed "one of the greatest single years" in its history. Besides receiving a three-year reauthorization from Congress that calls for an increase in funding to up to $70 million a year for ARC economic and human development programs, the Commission also received a commitment from Congress to provide up to $2.25 billion for the Appalachian Development Highway System over the next five years.

Dr. White presented a special guest from the administration, Gene Sperling, director of President Clinton's National Economic Council. Sperling described a series of new administration proposals that would buttress ARC's entrepreneurship in underserved areas, especially in the area of access to capital.

In summarizing President Clinton's "New Markets Initiative," which is part of the administration's FY 2000 budget, Sperling said the plan had three major objectives:

  • Provide tax credit and loan guarantee incentives to stimulate new private capital investment in targeted areas;
  • Build a network of private investment institutions to funnel credit, equity, and technical assistance into businesses in America's new markets; and
  • Provide the expertise to targeted small businesses that will allow them to use new investment to grow.

Governor Underwood Is New States' Co-Chairman

Governor Cecil Underwood of West Virginia was chosen by his fellow Appalachian governors to serve as ARC's states' co-chairman for calendar year 1999. Underwood was elected governor for the second time in his career in the fall of 1996. He previously served as West Virginia's governor from 1957 to 1961.

Since taking office in 1997, Underwood has aggressively sought to improve and diversify West Virginia's economy. He has created the Governor's Guaranteed Work Force Program, which offers to help educate and train employees for new and growing businesses in West Virginia. He also has sought new partnerships with high-tech firms such as Bell Atlantic, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft to expand communication technologies across the state.

"We are trying to say to the world that we are open for business," Governor Underwood has told constituents. He notes that over the past two years, West Virginia has seen the creation of more than 20,000 new jobs. The state's unemployment rate last year was 6.6 percent—the lowest since 1978.

A native of Tyler County, Underwood served six terms in the House of Delegates (from 1945 to 1957), the last four as minority leader.

A graduate of Salem College, he earned his master's degree from West Virginia University. From 1972 to 1975 he was the president of Bethany College. An adjunct professor of political science at Marshall University, Underwood has been active in the West Virginia educational community, serving on the boards of the West Virginia State College System and the West Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.

Prior to his re-election in 1996, Underwood was the chairman of Morgantown Industrial Research Park, Inc., a company formed to build industry and employment in the Morgantown area.

DDAA Honors Warner, Mollohan, Swanson

Senator John W. Warner of Virginia and Representative Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia were honored by the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA) in March for their leadership in Congress in support of Appalachian development programs. Both members of Congress received awards at the association's annual conference in Washington.

In addition, the DDAA named Roger Swanson, New York's ARC program manager since 1982, as the recipient of its John D. Whisman Vision Award, which is given each year in memory of the east Kentuckian who devoted his life to improving Appalachia's economic condition through regional cooperation.

Swanson was nominated for the award by the boards of all three local development districts in the Southern Tier of New York as well as by New York Secretary of State Alexander F. Treadwell, who serves as New York's state alternate to ARC.

New State Alternates

Three Appalachian governors have named new state alternates to represent them on the Appalachian Regional Commission. Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has named Dewayne Freeman, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, as his alternate. Georgia Governor Roy Barnes has named Dotti Crews, director of intergovernmental relations in the governor's office, as his ARC state alternate. South Carolina Governor James Hodges has named Sam Cargill, director of the Division of Community Grants Programs in the state's department of commerce, as his alternate.

EZ/EC Initiative Benefits Appalachia

Six Appalachian communities will receive more than $6.7 million in special federal economic development assistance under round two of the Clinton administration's Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Program. The initiative provides tax incentives and performance grants and loans to create jobs and expand business opportunities.

  • Huntington, West Virginia, and Ironton, Ohio, shared one Urban Empowerment Zone designation and Knoxville, Tennessee, received another. Each zone will receive approximately $3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to finance new programs aimed at revitalizing the community and creating new jobs.
  • Rutledge, Tennessee; Uniontown, Pennsylvania; and Charleston, West Virginia, received Rural Enterprise Community designations from the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture. Each will receive $250,000 in special assistance.

ARC made $130,000 available last year in mini-grants to help Appalachian communities participate in this round of the EZ/EC initiative. The grants provided community leaders with assistance in crafting plans to apply for the special community development funds.