More than $1.3 million in federal funding is slated to go to two West Virginia organizations to help develop sustainable food efforts and new housing, the Appalachian Regional Commission announced in a news release Wednesday.
The Natural Capital Investment Fund in Shepherdstown will receive $1.2 million from the ARC for its local food systems development work in five states, including West Virginia, the release said.
The NCIF is receiving the grant on behalf of the Central Appalachian Network, a network of nonprofit organizations, for use in the Growing Food System Capacity and Scaling Economic Impact project. The project aims to bolster production capacity by providing farms and food businesses with assistance, training, facility improvements and more, according to the ARC. The ARC says the project is expected to create 26 new businesses and 100 jobs.
The NCIF finances and guides enterprises in underserved communities to further economic development. It has participated in various sustainable food efforts, and the grant “will support the members and partners” of the network in their efforts to build a stronger local food economy, the ARC said.
NCIF President Marten Jenkins did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The Southern Appalachian Labor School in Kincaid will receive $101,981 to go toward a study to help establish the Entrepreneur Coalfield Alternative Opportunity project, the release said.
The project will employ people to replace old coal camp housing in the Montgomery area with modern housing units, according to John David, director of SALS. He said the group has rehabilitated hundreds of homes and built around 25 entirely new homes.
“A lot of these homes are still being occupied, even if they are not intended to be housing for today,” David said. “In essence, we want to replace the houses. If they are updated, people can realize tremendous energy savings.”
The study will help establish project specifics, including market demand, financial needs and number of homes needing repair, David said, to better prepare the project for future funding opportunities.
The grants are a part of the ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) initiative, which aims to counter economic decline in Appalachia by providing funding for development projects that bolster the workforce and improve quality of life. The ARC said it has invested more than $94 million in communities affected by the coal industry’s decline since 2016.
“These projects are part of an ongoing strategy to strengthen Appalachia’s economy, especially in areas hit hardest by recent coal mine job losses,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Earl Gohl in a news release. “Agriculture, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, technology, and construction are all part of the Region’s economic future.”
President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would eliminate the agency. Gohl said in June that the agency’s focus is focused on “moving forward and acting on the 2017 budget,” and that 2018 would be “for other people to figure out.”
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