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Inside Information: January–April 2000 Issue

Inside Information

Appalachian Regional Commission Meets in Washington

Jesse L. White Jr., federal co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and West Virginia Governor Cecil H. Underwood, ARC's 2000 states' co-chairman, presided over the annual Governors' Quorum Meeting of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on February 27 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley addressed the Commission, which unanimously approved a new initiative aimed at boosting the college-going rate in Appalachian high schools. Designed to establish an Appalachian Higher Education Network that will target high school students throughout the Appalachian Region, the new initiative seeks to expand successful efforts now under way in Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia.

Secretary Riley joined ARC officials in crediting two institutions—the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education (OACHE) at Shawnee State University, in Portsmouth, Ohio, and the North Central Appalachian Center for Higher Education (NCACHE) at Bluefield State College, in Bluefield, West Virginia—as paving the way for the new program.

With ARC support, OACHE and NCACHE have encouraged hundreds of Appalachian high school students to enroll in colleges, technical schools, and other higher-learning institutions.

In Tuscarawas County, Ohio, for example, 80 percent of Newcomerstown High School students enrolled in college last year?up from less than 30 percent seven years ago. In West Virginia, Wirt County High School recently increased its college enrollment rate by more than 50 percent.

"Post-secondary education is becoming increasingly important for every young person in Appalachia," said Federal Co-Chairman White. "When initially confronted with the idea of college, many parents and students in rural communities hesitate for a variety of cultural and financial reasons. These programs break down these barriers and build self-esteem. College becomes a real possibility in the lives of high school students."

Governor Underwood joined White in supporting the program. "In several high schools in West Virginia, we are seeing very promising results," Underwood said. "It's critically important that we identify role models from the Appalachian Region who can motivate students to think more positively about college and who can demonstrate the benefits of college firsthand."

The governor noted that he has enlisted Willie Rose, one of West Virginia's "Rocket Boys" made famous last year in the popular movie October Sky, to speak to students throughout the Region about the importance of a college education.

Under the initiative, ARC would provide four challenge grants to help Appalachian states organize initiatives similar to those in Ohio and West Virginia. The four proposed new centers, to be determined by a competitive process, would provide grants to high schools to support a variety of activities, including programs to help high school teachers advise students on career and education choices and to enable more students to visit college campuses.

In other action, the governors agreed to ask Congress for an additional $16.5 million in fiscal year (FY) 2001 to help the Commission address the needs of the Region, including 111 counties considered economically distressed.

Under the proposal, introduced by Ohio Governor Bob Taft, the 13 Appalachian governors will ask Congress for at least $82.6 million for ARC's nonhighway programs in FY 2001?an increase of more than 20 percent over ARC's FY 2000 budget.

President Clinton has requested a budget of $71.4 million in nonhighway funds for the Commission in FY 2001, including an additional $5 million for its Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The Commission also agreed to create an enhanced program for distressed counties that will help states identify specific strategies to spur economic development in Appalachia's poorest communities. ARC is planning a series of meetings in the Region later this year to lay the groundwork for the new distressed counties program.

Following a broad review of ARC policies and programs in distressed counties, the Commission released at the meeting a report showing that in the past three years, 50 percent of ARC project funds have gone to programs that benefit distressed counties. Based on this report, the Commission expressed strong support for continuing current allocation policies in distressed counties.

New Mississippi Governor Joins ARC, Names State Alternate

Mississippi Governor David R. Musgrove, who took office in January, is the newest member of the Appalachian Regional Commission. A lawyer and longtime public servant, Musgrove served in the Mississippi state senate before becoming the state's lieutenant governor in 1995.

A native of Panola County, Mississippi, the governor graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and earned a law degree from the university's school of law in 1981. That year he joined the law firm of Smith, Musgrove, and McCord in Batesville, where he became a partner.

Musgrove was first elected to the Mississippi state senate in 1987, representing Tate and Panola Counties, and was reelected in 1991 and 1992. During his tenure he chaired the Senate Education Committee and served on the Education, Appropriations, and Judiciary Committees, among others.

The new governor has named his chief of staff, David Cole, as his state alternate to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Before joining Musgrove in January to head the new governor's staff, Cole served for five years as president of Itawamba Community College. Previously, he had served for nearly two decades as superintendent of schools in his hometown of Batesville, Mississippi.

Local Development District Leaders Focus on Transportation, Workforce Investment at Annual DDAA Meeting

More than 300 local development officials from the 71 planning districts in the Appalachian Region gathered in Arlington, Virginia, in March for an annual training conference sponsored by the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA).

Two landmark pieces of federal legislation?the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998?were the principal topics of discussion at the meeting.

Following two days of meetings, participants voted to continue recent DDAA efforts to help communities maximize the economic benefits of new highways in Appalachia through improved transportation planning that links highways to other modes of transportation. In addition, DDAA members voted to support efforts in Congress to reauthorize ARC beyond 2001, when the Commission's current reauthorization expires.

The DDAA also paid special tribute to Ohio Congressman Bob Ney by awarding him its 2000 Congressional Award. Ney was hailed by the association as a "friend, ally, and strong supporter" in Congress of economic development throughout Appalachia and especially in Appalachian Ohio.

In 1998, DDAA officials noted, Ney played a key role in helping win bipartisan support for reauthorization legislation that helped ensure more stable funding for ARC and the local planning districts in the Appalachian Region. Ney was first elected to Congress in 1994, and previously served ten years in the Ohio legislature, where he championed efforts to improve local economies in Appalachian Ohio.

In other action, association members elected Edward Silvetti of Pennsylvania as president of the DDAA for the next year, beginning in July. Silvetti, who is currently serving as the association's vice president, will replace outgoing president Rudy Johnson of Mississippi. Other newly elected association officers are Vice President David Rundgren of Virginia, Treasurer Bob Culver of Alabama, and Secretary Jim Mylott of West Virginia.

Community Leader in Erie County, Pennsylvania, Receives John D. Whisman Vision Award

R. Benjamin Wiley, a longtime proponent of economic development in Appalachia and a major force for positive change in the Appalachian communities of Erie County, Pennsylvania, has received the prestigious John D. Whisman Vision Award from the Development District Association of Appalachia.

Wiley, the chief executive officer of the Greater Erie Community Action Committee, accepted the award at a luncheon in March during the association's annual training conference in Arlington, Virginia.

The award is given annually by local development leaders from the 71 planning districts in the 13 Appalachian states.

Named after John D. Whisman, a Kentuckian who devoted his life to improving economic conditions in the Appalachian Region, the award honors a single individual who has provided exemplary service and leadership in the Region and demonstrated commitment to the ideals of state and federal cooperation.

The award cites Wiley's contributions in a number of areas, including education, job training, and business development. With support from ARC, Wiley helped start the Greater Erie Community Action Committee, which today runs 16 Head Start centers, seven senior centers, and five licensed Drug and Alcohol Prevention, Treatment, and Case Management facilities. The nonprofit agency also provides services in job training, housing assistance, nutrition counseling, and transportation.

In a video tribute to Wiley shown at the awards ceremony, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge noted: "Over the decades I have known and worked with Ben Wiley. He has done so much to make Pennsylvania's Erie region a better place to live and to work. Ben understands the potential of our region. His tireless work and hands-on, common-sense approach has realized that potential by revitalizing communities throughout [the] region. When we began Pennsylvania's Project for Community Building, I incorporated many of the same comprehensive strategies that Ben put in place when we worked together in Erie."

William R. Steiner, executive director of the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, nominated Wiley for the award, saying, "Ben Wiley personifies the best of Appalachia. He sees the good that the Region has to offer, and he has committed himself to the good he can give back to it. He carries on the attitude and the work that John Whisman started."