Link to ARC home page.

Inside Information: May–August 1996 Issue

Federal Co-Chairman Testifies on Highways

Testifying before a Congressional subcommittee in June, ARC Federal Co-Chairman Jesse L. White Jr. urged Congress to consider directing additional funds toward completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) when the national highway bill, ISTEA, comes before Congress for renewal next year.

The federal co-chairman's testimony, presented to Chairman Thomas E. Petri and other members of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, described the important role that highways play in linking Appalachia to national and international markets.

Federal Co-Chairman White said that while about three-fourths of the 3,025-mile ADHS is complete, the miles remaining to be built include "some of the most challenging." Much of the remaining mileage consists of "the most expensive mileage in the system," said White, citing a mountain tunnel and a key bridge across the Ohio River.

The ARC federal co-chairman reported on the cost to complete the ADHS (current estimates, based on the 1992 cost estimate, place the federal share of the cost in the range of $4.9 billion to $6.3 billion). He noted that, if states rely solely on ARC appropriations to complete the system, at the current level of funding the ADHS would not be finished until the middle of the next century. In FY 1996, ARC received $107.4 million for highway spending.

Describing the positive impact of the highway system on economic development, Federal Co-Chairman White cited a study funded by the National Science Foundation and published last year in the Journal of the American Planning Association, which found that between 1969 and 1991, the 110 Appalachian counties with an ADHS highway grew 69 percentage points faster in income, 6 percentage points faster in population, and 49 percentage points faster in earnings than similar counties outside the Appalachian Region.

Besides providing the base for expansion of commerce and industry, the ADHS has also been instrumental in extending community services, such as education and health care, to the residents of Appalachia's isolated rural areas. It has also supported dramatic growth in tourism, often the only viable industry in Appalachia's rugged mountains.

John D. Whisman Scholars

In the spring of 1995, ARC established the Appalachian Scholar Program as part of its research activities. The purpose of the program is to focus the research skill and experience of scholars and experts in the field of economic development on Appalachian concerns.

Later last year, the title of the award was changed to "John D. Whisman Scholar" in honor of the man widely credited with developing the concept on which the ARC program is based. Whisman, who served on the task force that established the Commission and later as representative of the Appalachian states at Commission headquarters in Washington, died in June 1995.

At a meeting of the Commission this July, the first Appalachian Scholar, Andrew Isserman, director of the Regional Research Institute at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, was honored for his work during 1995 and 1996. The 1996-1997 scholar, Amy Glasmeier, professor of geography and regional planning at Pennsylvania State University, was introduced at the meeting.

During his tenure as Appalachian Scholar, Isserman prepared working papers on several topics, including the impact of the Appalachian Development Highway System on the Region's most rural counties, bank deposits in the Region, and transfer income in the Region.

ETAC Meeting in Asheville

The Export Trade Advisory Council (ETAC), established by ARC as part of the Commission's 1995 strategic regional initiative on globalization of the Appalachian economy, met June 25 in Asheville, North Carolina.

The aim of the initiative is to strengthen the ability of small and medium-sized Appalachian businesses to gain access to and compete in the global marketplace.

The ETAC heard reports on participation in a major European trade fair by a number of Appalachian small businesses, and on progress to date on research on Appalachian industries that ARC is funding as part of the globalization initiative. As a result of ETAC efforts, the firms traveled to Sweden early in June to meet prospective trade partners at the Europartenariat, an innovative trade development program launched by the European Commission in 1987.

Held twice each year, the event is regularly attended by more than 2,500 European businesses from some 50 countries. The Appalachian businesses were among the first U.S. companies invited to participate in the event.

Nine Appalachian companies, employing between 3 and 153 workers and producing goods ranging from outdoor furniture to filtered air respirators, attended the Europartenariat trade fair. Three other companies participated from Atlanta, Georgia, via interactive television. The Appalachian firms attending each garnered from 3 to 16 potential trade deals at the event.

Measuring ARC Results

Although ARC's strategic plan is six months old, the planning process continues, with the main focus now on development of a performance measurement system that will tell ARC and its customers how well ARC programs are working and provide guidance in designing future programs. The goal of current efforts is to prepare a plan for discussion by the end of the fiscal year (September 30).

ARC staff has met with several experts in benchmarking and has had discussions with the Appalachian states to establish a common vocabulary and expectations. In addition, the National Governors' Association (NGA) and SAG Corporation are assisting in the design of parts of the new ARC performance management system.

NGA is conducting a survey of the Appalachian states to determine what performance management strategies are being used by state governments and the key components of their management systems. In addition, NGA will identify the best performance management and benchmarking practices in four to six states outside the Region. SAG Corporation is surveying potential data sources for measuring progress toward the ARC strategic plan objectives.

Staff will integrate the results of the NGA and SAG Corporation work with the ARC strategic plan for review and discussion at a Commission work session.

ARC Forms Alliance with Community Colleges

In keeping with Goal 1 of the new ARC strategic plan—Appalachian residents will have the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in the world economy in the 21st century"—the Commission has established a formal alliance with the Community College Association of Appalachia.

Meeting in Washington in July, the Commission adopted a resolution to include the alliance and its work among the strategies ARC will employ in support of the strategic plan.

"This alliance represents an important step toward realization of the first goal in our strategic plan," said ARC Executive Director Tom Hunter. "Whether ARC succeeds in meeting its goals will depend to a great extent on partnerships that will lend additional resources and expertise to ARC's efforts."

Appalachia's community and technical colleges focus on the literacy needs of area residents and provide short-term skill upgrading, continuing education for professionals, customized training, and associate degree programs. With their open admissions policies and modest tuition, they provide many Appalachians with their only opportunity for post-secondary education. They also play an important role in developing institutional and civic leadership.

ARC sees the community college system as a catalyst for change and innovation in human and resource development. Under the alliance the community colleges would work with the Commission, the ARC member states, and local development districts to accomplish the objectives of Goal 1.

Legislative Update

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have approved appropriations bills that contain ARC funding for FY 1997.

The House voted on July 25 to provide $155.3 million for ARC as part of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 1997.

The Senate's version of the bill came to the floor on July 30. An amendment offered by Senator Rod Grams of Minnesota that would have reduced the funding level proposed for ARC by the Senate Appropriations Committee from $165 million to the House-approved level of $155 million was tabled by a vote of 69-30.

Differences between the two bills will be resolved by a conference committee this fall.