Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Appalachian Regional Commission Announces $44.4 Million In Grants To Help Diversify The Region's Coal-Impacted Economies, Including PA

These 54 awards are projected to create or retain over 5,700 jobs, leverage more than $39 million in private investment, create and/or retain 2,940 businesses, and train thousands of workers and students within the broadband, entrepreneurship, substance abuse recovery, tourism and other industry sectors across coal-impacted communities in nine Appalachian states.
The grants awarded in Pennsylvania include--
-- $2,500,000 ARC grant to Tioga County in Wellsboro, PA for the Northern Pennsylvania Broadband Connectivity Project. Tioga County, in conjunction with Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, will construct over 175 miles of fiber in three counties (Tioga, Potter, and Lycoming) to bring access to reliable high-speed broadband to 60 businesses and 581 households in one of the most underserved areas of rural Pennsylvania. 
From 2007-2017 Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s service area saw a 66 percent decrease in the number of active coal mines, with a drop of 42 percent in mine employment.
The new fiber network will help bolster economic development, assist educational institutions, provide telemedicine opportunities for area hospitals, assist healthcare workers in addressing the opioid crisis, and help prevent youth out-migration. Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative is providing $3,242,125 for the project.
-- $1,500,000 ARC grant to the Venango County Economic Development Authority in Franklin, PA for the Business Innovation Center and Fiber Optic Expansion project. This grant will fund the development of a new Business Innovation Center, including a co-working and maker space, in Oil City, PA and will expand a fiber optic network throughout the business district served by the Center. 
The Innovation Center will foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem, serving as a catalyst for economic diversification in the region through innovation and business creation. By eliminating the fiber network “dead end,” the project will enable businesses in this section of the city to compete in a technology-driven economy. 
Within three years of completion, the Innovation Center will launch the development of 20 new businesses, and at least 29 businesses will connect to the new fiber network. The project is projected to leverage $1,200,000 in private investment as entrepreneurs create 12 new businesses using these new community assets.
-- $1,223,551 ARC grant to Bridgeway Capital in Pittsburgh, PA for the Western Pennsylvania Entrepreneur Diversification Fund. 
Through a combination of technical assistance to entrepreneurs and the capitalization of a revolving loan fund, Bridgeway Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution, will promote entrepreneurial activity across its 15-county service area of western Pennsylvania, a region whose economy has been adversely affected by the decline in the coal industry.
Activities will include business development workshops, one-on-one counseling, support for a regional business incubator, and small grants to entrepreneurs for training and licensure. 
The project is expected to lead to the creation of 65 new businesses and 200 new jobs, while leveraging $5,625,000 in private investment. 
Additional funding is being provided by Penn State University, the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, and the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority. Private capital for the revolving loan fund is being provided by TriState Capital Bank.
-- $725,850 ARC grant to Clearfield County in Clearfield, PA for the North Central PA Launchbox and Innovation Collaborative. 
The project will equip the Collaborative’s business incubator to offer three sets of services: a makerspace with sophisticated equipment; research and development services to help manufacturers solve problems; and a training center that offers opportunities in powdered metals, automation, and additive manufacturing. 
The Collaborative seeks to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing wraparound services that increase access to capital, up-skill local talent to secure advanced manufacturing jobs, and provide technical assistance and specialized manufacturing support services for businesses. 
The project rests on a broad network of partners, including Penn State Dubois, the Clarion Small Business Development Center, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and North Central Regional Planning & Development Commission. 
It will benefit seven counties in North Central Pennsylvania and lead to the improvement of 45 businesses and 60 workers/trainees.
-- $500,000 ARC grant to the City of Erie, PA for the Erie, Pennsylvania Broadband Deployment program.
Grant funds will expand the Erie Innovation District’s Secure Smart City pilot initiative by providing free public Wi-Fi access to Erie’s eight federally designated Opportunity Zones. This project is part of a larger effort by the city to recruit, retain, and expand business investments and jobs in the Opportunity Zones.
Erie has experienced significant job losses in manufacturing as a result of reductions in the coal industry supply chain. The project will leverage the expertise of a private sector digital technology solutions provider for smart cities. 
The initiative will provide outdoor Wi-Fi access; urban security solutions, including license plate recognition and traffic monitoring; analytics that can be tracked on a visualization dashboard; and the ability to remotely control street lights. 
An additional investment of $900,000 from other sources will enable other Smart City components to become operational within the Opportunity Zones. Erie hopes to become an entirely Smart City by 2028. 
-- $50,000 ARC grant to the Greene County Board of Commissioners in Waynesburg, PA for the Rural Broadband Coverage and Feasibility Study. This study will identify county-wide gaps in broadband access and will determine the best technology to fill these gaps (such as fiber, white space, cable, and DSL). 
When Greene County, which has experienced significant mining job losses, updated its comprehensive plan in 2018, the top-ranked issue identified was a need to expand broadband access.
The feasibility study will review the county’s broadband assets, conduct a field survey of existing broadband access, determine customer demand, identify the best technology options for service gaps, and develop an implementation matrix.
-- $50,000 ARC grant to the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission in Altoona, PA for a South-Central Pennsylvania Broadband Infrastructure Assessment. This feasibility study will identify ways of increasing broadband and cellular services to residents and businesses in an eight-county region of South Central Pennsylvania. 
These eight counties have experienced economic downturn as a result of the decline of mining and manufacturing industries, and expanded broadband access could create new economic opportunities for the region. 
The study will identify the broadband assets already in place, assess community broadband requirements, identify the best technology to meet the needs, and provide cost estimates for different deployment strategies.
-- $50,000 ARC grant to tecBRIDGE, LLC in Scranton, PA for the Enhancing Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem - Incubator Optimization project. 
This project will assess the business incubation climate and assets in five counties in northeastern Pennsylvania (Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Schuylkill, and Wayne) and identify proven programs that can be replicated in communities to strengthen the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and support the successful start-up and expansion of small businesses. 
The project capitalizes on a broad network of partners, including the NEPA Alliance, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, East Stroudsburg University, the Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and the Wayne Economic Development Corporation.
-- $20,000 ARC grant to Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (Fay-Penn) in Lemont Furnace, PA for the Fayette County Multi-Tenant Spec Building Feasibility Study. The study will determine the feasibility of constructing multi-tenant speculative (“spec”) shell buildings at various locations throughout Fayette County to accommodate and attract new business development. 
Fay-Penn has received an increasing number of inquiries from companies seeking industrial/commercial space availability. In many cases, especially for larger building size needs, the county does not have readily available, suitable space.
The feasibility study will determine priority locations for development, building requirements for those companies, economic impacts of spec buildings, and marketing approaches for new development.
For more information on this program, visit the ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative webpage.
[Note: At least the Appalachian Regional Commission cares about coal region communities and their transition to other opportunities.]
[Posted: October 9, 2019]

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