Grants should help regional economy

Dino Beckett

WILLIAMSON – The region recently was awarded some huge federal grants which should have a tremendous impact on the economy. Most everyone would agree that this area needs positive news and the announcements of millions in grant money will be a shot in the arm for this part of Appalachia.

The grants are expected to have a $73 million impact on the region.

The Williamson Health and Wellness Center received a $45,000 Cool and Connected grant, which will help leverage broadband and Wi-Fi access in downtown Williamson.

“This should help open some businesses and enhance healthcare technology,” said WHWC Community Liaison Darrin McCormick.

Williamson was one of only 10 nationally that was awarded money from this rural broadband grant. The hopes are that this will be the beginning of getting more broadband into other parts of the county, which is greatly needed.

Dr. Donovan “Dino” Beckett said that the grants received are significant to county and regional partners for several projects in the works. “These will have a direct impact,” he added.

Beckett sees all of the grants as an economic boost for the region, even the $7 million the University of Pikeville received for its Kentucky College of Optometry.

“That will help southern W.Va., eastern Kentucky and southwestern Va.,” Beckett stated.

The $1.8 million received for Coalfield Development Corporation, which has projects in both Mingo and Wayne Counties is an example of entrepreneurship. “This will expand job training and produce 85 new jobs,” McCormick said. “We are partners with them. They have already brought in new jobs, which are something we need in this region.”

Beckett serves on the board of directors for the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA). They organization got money to help with the infrastructure at the Air Transportation Park. Both Beckett and McCormick think this project could create jobs and help attract businesses, and have an additional economic impact on the region.

Money to build a new hangar for the airport was recently approved.

“The POWER Initiative has not only provided programmatic funds which have allowed us to expand the local foods success into a more regional effort that we call Refresh Appalachia, but it’s also facilitated regional partnerships, and through those partnerships, the creation of innovative collaborations that are generating sustainable job opportunities for our county and for the entire region,” said Leasha Johnson, Executive Director of the MCRA.

Other grant money went to the Hatfield – McCoy Trail Authority which should help with tourism and hopefully develop more jobs in southern W.Va.

Beckett said that combining all of the grants and considering the impact they could have is just the beginning of some optimistic views and the ripple effect can turn into millions of dollars for the region.

“There are significant totals,” McCormick said. “There has been a lot of time invested by several individuals and organizations.”

“This is the multiplier effect – when you see these things happening – we have to create sustainability,” Beckett stated.

“Another thing that is very important is that we have a track record now. We have been a good steward of the money they have given us,” Beckett stressed. “We have invested that into the community and have been able to increase revenue. We are thinking outside of the box. Now they have confidence in our organizations, like the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, that we are going to do the best we can with that money. They have confidence in investing in us.”

“We hope to see more investments and economic development. The thing we are doing is collaborating with several of these groups,” Dr. Beckett concluded. “We need to continue this collaboration and work in unison.”

Here is a list of some of the grants received for this region:

University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Ky. for the Kentucky College of Optometry

$7,474,100 total (a $4,974,100 EDA grant and a $2,500,000 ARC grant) to the University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Ky. for the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) project. POWER funds will be used to purchase equipment, instructional supplies, and other materials to help launch a new College of Optometry. The college will both grow the healthcare workforce and improve access to vision care in Central Appalachia. KYCO will be only the second optometry college in the Appalachian Region, and will primarily serve Eastern Kentucky, Southern West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia. Within the first three years of the award, KYCO will graduate 60 optometrists, provide care to 12,000 patients, and bring $26,000,000 in direct economic impact to the regional economy.

Transportation Park Upgrade through Mingo County Redevelopment Authority and Mingo County Public Service District – Williamson/Mingo County

EDA Funding – $1,648,400: This upgrade will provide potable water to the Mingo County Air Transportation Park in central Mingo County where light and advanced manufacturing economic development projects will be sited atop a reclaimed surface mine.

Coalfield Development Corporation for the Appalachian Social Entrepreneurship Investment Strategy – Wayne County

ARC Funding – $1,870,000 : Funding will be used to incubate job-creating social enterprises, scale-up Coalfield Development Corporation’s on-the-job training/education/life skills workforce development model, and expand its service territory to other areas in southern West Virginia.

Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority for the Southern Coalfields Sustainable Tourism & Entrepreneurship Program – Man/Logan County

ARC Funding – $1,372,275 : Funding will develop and implement a comprehensive program to expand tourism-related employment and businesses in southern West Virginia

(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)

Dino Beckett Beckett
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