Appalachian Communities Damaged by Tornadoes are Focus of Sixth ARDI Workshop
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama, December 5, 2011—Over 170 elected officials, community and business leaders, educators, and representatives of the nonprofit sector learned today about federal resources and technical assistance available to help promote long-term economic recovery in their tornado-damaged communities at a workshop sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The workshop was the sixth in a series that ARC has convened this year as part of the Appalachian Regional Development Initiative (ARDI), an unprecedented partnership of federal agencies working to energize economic development in Appalachia.
In a noon address to the workshop participants, ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl underscored the need for Appalachian applications for federal assistance to be "sharper, tighter, smarter, and more competitive" as the competition for federal dollars intensifies. "This session today is about how ARC and the federal agencies here can help your communities be successful," he said.
Earlier, Jim Byard Jr., director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, expressed appreciation on behalf of the state to ARC and USDA for sponsoring the workshop. "The information gained today will help boost the long-term recovery efforts of many communities affected by April's tornadoes," he said.
In addition to panels describing available federal resources, the workshop featured "how-to" panels providing examples of best practices communities can employ in the effort to recover and become more resilient.
Participating agencies included ARC, USDA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.
An economic assessment that accompanied the launch of the ARDI last fall noted that Appalachia remains below the national average on a wide range of key indicators, with high rates of unemployment, disability, health disparities, and poverty, coupled with low per-capita incomes and college graduation rates. The assessment concluded that the combination of these challenges has greatly hindered economic development in Appalachia.
At the time of the initiative's launch, Gohl explained that the initiative was "part of the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to create jobs and make sure Appalachia is a part of America's economic recovery."
Workshop presentations will be available for download from ARC's Web site at www.arc.gov/ardi.