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Coal communities in Pennsylvania and other Appalachian states receiving nearly $47 million for revitalization

  • The Associated Press
FILE PHOTO: The small city of Hazard, Ky., nestled in the heart of the coal fields of Appalachia, is shown Tuesday, May 26, 2015. The city received a $1,500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to downtown development and project investments.

 David Stephenson / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: The small city of Hazard, Ky., nestled in the heart of the coal fields of Appalachia, is shown Tuesday, May 26, 2015. The city received a $1,500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to downtown development and project investments.

Dozens of projects in communities affected by coal-related job losses are receiving nearly $47 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The awards through the ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative go to 52 projects in 181 counties, the commission said. It is the largest single awards package from the initiative since it began in 2015, according to the ARC.

Nine initiatives in Pennsylvania are being funded — including a health sciences workforce development center in Fayette County and Penn State’s Realizing Automated and Advanced Manufacturing Processes effort.

Among the largest awards was $2.4 million to expand broadband in Summers County, West Virginia. The project will connect 489 homes and 179 businesses to affordable broadband.

Another fiber optic project, in Carroll County, Ohio, was awarded $1.9 million to connect 11 communities to affordable broadband, serving 384 homes and 53 businesses.

Other states where projects received awards are Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. The projects also support agriculture, workforce development, tourism and entrepreneurship.

The awards were announced this week in Frostburg, Maryland, ahead of the ARC’s annual conference.

“This latest round of POWER grant funding will not only help struggling coal communities to once again compete in a global marketplace, but also expand support for the creation of new jobs through growing Appalachia’s food economy,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said in a news release.

Midstate counties considered a part of Appalachia are Columbia, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder and Union.

Here are the Pennsylvania projects:

Health Sciences Workforce Development Center — Fayette County

ARC grant of $1,500,000 to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, for the Health Sciences Workforce Development Center project. This project will construct a 6,000-square-foot training center on the campus of Fayette County Career & Technical Institute (Fayette CTI), allowing Fayette CTI to enhance its Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program and meet the growing healthcare workforce needs in Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. West Virginia University Medicine will provide curriculum recommendations to Fayette CTI and plans to interview upwards of 50 program graduates for jobs approximately one year after construction and programming begins. Over the course of eighteen months, following the completion of the new facility, the project will serve 170 students with 136 anticipated to graduate.

Erie to Pittsburgh Trails/PA Wilds Loop Construction—Phase II — Venango County

ARC grant of $1,385,920 to Venango County, Pennsylvania, for Phase II construction of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail/PA Wilds Loop Trail, closing gaps in connectivity along both trails. Both trails are part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, an initiative to connect the area’s population centers via destination trails
that will attract users locally and nationally. This project contributes to that larger effort by building on a strategy developed by Crawford County, Pennsylvania, using a
2019 POWER planning grant. This project will complete three miles of critical multiuse recreational trail development, rehabilitate a key bridge, and provide road
crossing safety improvements. After two years, 15,840 linear feet of new trail will be built, attracting an expected 6,300 new day visitors and 2,100 new overnight visitors.
Project Title: Tri-State Net Zero Manufacturing Initiative

 Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation

ARC grant of $1,375,961 to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation (SPC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the Tri-State Net Zero Manufacturing Initiative project. To help address both the global climate crisis and the region’s economic reliance on coal, the project will help small and medium manufacturers participate in the growing supply chain for net-zero energy and decarbonization sectors. In partnership with Manufacturing Extension Partnership Appalachian Regional Commission, October 2022  (MEP) centers at Catalyst Connection, West Virginia University, and Ohio MAGNET, the project will engage and connect manufacturers with strategies and
opportunities; incentivize the deployment of net zero supply chain and clean factory strategies by providing “Net Zero Manufacturing Mini-Grants”; and identify pathways
to scale up net zero manufacturing, among other activities. The project will serve 47 counties across three states, produce two plans/reports, implement three programs,
serve 300 businesses, create 120 jobs and 25 new businesses, and leverage $360,000 in additional private investment.

Aviation Workforce Training Center — Saint Francis University

ARC grant of $1,000,000 to Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, for the Aviation Workforce Training Center project. Through collaboration with industry partners—including the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority, Cambria County, Nulton Aviation Services, and Sky West Airlines—to ensure compliance with FAA regulations and intersection with industry needs, the project will establish an Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) school at the John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport. The school will provide the coalimpacted workforce with aviation maintenance training and certifications, helping individuals create pathways into secure, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the growing aviation industry and related sectors. While focused on AMT, training will also synergize with more general trades needed by a variety of occupations, thus also helping dislocated workers from coal-related industries re-enter the workforce using skill sets transferable outside the aviation sector. By the end of the three-year grant period, 60 workers/trainees are expected to enroll in the training program, and five will graduate with certifications that will enable them to obtain employment in the aviation sector or similar field.

Child Care Works for the Southern Alleghenies

ARC grant of $756,690 to the Learning Lamp in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, for the Child Care Works for the Southern Alleghenies project. The project will increase child care supply and put more people back to work in a rural, coal-impacted region of west central Pennsylvania where there is not enough quality and affordable child care to meet local workforce demands. In addition to increasing child care supply, the project will bolster the early learning workforce through educational opportunities and encourage individuals to build their own home-based child care businesses. The project’s four-pronged approach includes recruiting early childhood workers and directing them into education and career pathways through pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships to increase skills and wages; piloting the micro-center child care model as a solution for the child care shortage in rural communities; launching a Staffed Family Child Care Network campaign to increase the number of home-based child care providers in the region; and completing a child care expansion and quality improvement project currently underway in heavily coal-impacted Somerset County. By the end of the 3-year grant period, the project is expected to create 20 new family-based child care businesses; improve 18 existing child care businesses; improve wages and job prospects for an estimated 48 workers/trainees; and create career pathways for 230 high school students. An additional 468 working parents will have access to expanded child care options that will enable them to remain in or enter the workforce.

Realizing Automated and Advanced Manufacturing Processes — The Pennsylvania State University

ARC grant of $750,087 to the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, for the Realizing Automated and Advanced Manufacturing Processes (RAAMP) project. The project will facilitate short-form workshops emphasizing specific software/hardware workflows and key concepts of advanced manufacturing, which will be led by in-house staff and guest instructors invited from various sectors of industry. It will also purchase next-level equipment and support manufacturing innovation and workforce development through free access and training on leading-edge tools, equipment, and technologies. Through partnerships with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners and regional business owners, these combined efforts will help regional manufacturers modernize their production capabilities and address the shortage of skilled labor by training and upskilling an existing workforce disenfranchised by the eroding coal economy and empower Appalachians to obtain high-paying, tech-centric jobs. These efforts will improve 60 businesses, 180 workers/trainees, and 45 students through workshop training; create 10 jobs; and retain 30 jobs through modernization of business processes and professional development over the course of the 3-year grant period.

Bedford County Site Feasibility Study — Bedford County Development Association (BCDA)

ARC grant of $50,000 to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, for the Bedford County Site Feasibility Study. The study will evaluate three sites in Bedford County to determine the best location for a new business park. The goal of the business park will be to cultivate an environment where new and existing manufacturers create well-paying jobs through increased private investment and capitalization on the resurgence of manufacturing.

Erie County Broadband Expansion Feasibility Study — Erie Area Council of Governments

ARC grant of $50,000 to Erie Area Council of Governments in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the Erie County Broadband Expansion Feasibility Study. The project will analyze existing broadband infrastructure and coverage gaps and recommend implementation strategies for expanding and improving local internet access throughout Erie County. The applicant will contract with an expert consultant to perform the study and with the Erie County Department of Planning and Community Development to provide economic impact data and GIS services. The project will serve 16 communities over the course of a year.

Partnerships to Advance Learning in STEM (PALS) Strategic Expansion Plan —ASSET Inc.

ARC grant of $48,661 to ASSET Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the Partnerships to Advance Learning in STEM (PALS) Strategic Expansion Plan project. This project will help four regional teams develop action plans to implement the PALS tutoring program, which engages pre-service educators to provide no-cost virtual tutoring to underserved K–8 learners in their communities. PALS tutoring addresses these challenges by focusing on learning acceleration to help K-8 students. In addition, PALS tutoring supports pre-service educators in building relationships, creating effective remote learning opportunities, and connecting their tutoring experiences to future classroom teaching. Project partners include Carlow University, University of Pittsburgh Johnstown, and the Pittsburgh Project. The one-year planning grant will result in action plans for PALS implementation for the regional teams located in Allegheny, Cambria, Greene, Indiana, and Lawrence counties. Long-term impacts include improving students’ development of 21st century skills, increased academic achievement, and increased STEM skills.

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