During a press conference held in Huntington on Wednesday, 28 funding awards were doled out to those communities that have been adversely affected by a sagging coal economy.
In total, these hard-hit coal areas will receive more than $38 million to help them transcend from coal to other economies, officials said.
The awards came via President Obama’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative, which is a $65 million program announced earlier this year by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the U. S. Economic Development Administration.
Officials said the program is intended “to stimulate economic growth and opportunity in communities that have historically relied on the coal economy for economic stability.”
Mingo County was chosen as one of the impacted areas. As a result, the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority and the Mingo Public Service District were jointly awarded a little more than $1.6 million for the extension of water and sewer facilities to the Mingo County Air Transportation Park (Appalachian Regional Airport).
“The projects and awards we are here to celebrate today help communities persevere and flourish as they deal with the challenges presented by the coal economy,” Jay Williams, U. S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, said during the press conference.
“POWER invests in jobs and workers, and develops and implements strategies and projects that can help transform these respective regions, states, and our nation.”
MCRA Executive Director Leasha Johnson said the award will allow officials to get the regional airport project a little closer to completion.
“Concurrent with the Mingo County Airport Authority’s recent success in securing funds for the construction of both a fuel farm and hangars, this infrastructure investment by the U. S. Economic Development Administration will allow us to finally move this project into the final phase of development,” Johnson said following the announcement.
Johnson added the money couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
“This award holds transformative potential for Mingo County and Southern West Virginia at a time when diversification is most critical,” she said.
“A tremendous amount of gratitude is owed the USEDA and to our state and Congressional leadership teams for believing in our potential to build a more diversified and better economic future for our region.”
Johnson said the final phase of the Air Transportation Park’s development is projected to lead to the opening of various aviation, manufacturing, and commercial businesses on the 500 acres of adjacent development sites.
“We’re really anxious to get to this final stage,” she said. “We’re confident that this infrastructure investment will usher in significant economic opportunities and sustainable job creation for years to come.”
Also the recipient of an award was the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority in Man. The award, which was for approximately $1.3 million, will go toward the development and implementation of a comprehensive program to expand tourism-related employment and businesses in Southern West Virginia, as well as provide for the expansion of the trail in Kentucky and Virginia.
The expansion project is expected to create 225 new jobs and 50 new businesses along the trail system, officials said.