Press release from the Appalachian Regional Commission
Today, Land of Sky Regional Council was awarded $50,000 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) matched with $50,000 from Dogwood Health Trust to help support the region’s creativity into economic development in coal-impacted communities in Western North Carolina. This award is part of a nearly $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries.
“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC federal co-chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship and supporting infrastructure — including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”
“Despite the immense creative sector talent we have in Western North Carolina many of our region’s artists lack proper wages to support themselves. The goal of this project is to develop a plan that will help scale this talent in the next level and employ other artists with meaningful work in their field of study.” Sara Nichols, regional planner, Land of Sky Regional Council
Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create/retain over 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region.
ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.
Western North Carolina is known for entrepreneurial strength in the creative arts. Currently, the region hosts over 18,000 creative sector jobs and there is unrealized potential exists in the local arts industry with a multitude of scalable businesses that need support to grow. This project will develop of a regional “Scaling Creative Sector Business Plan.” This effort will target increased coordination between economic development specialists and arts sector organizations, develops best practices to transform microentrepreneurs into employers and, and cultivate implementation concepts that will support needed initiatives.
The number of jobs in the creative sector has grown 3.4% in the past year and the arts industry is critical to the region’s overall economic ecosystem. However, entrepreneurs in the arts industry don’t always benefit. Despite the $319M in annual earnings, individually these entrepreneurs earn 15% less than the regional average. Due to this dichotomy, many are forced to survive on government subsidies or seek other forms of employment.
Many of these microbusinesses create scalable products that could provide culturally authentic employment for a local workforce trained by high-quality regional educational programs and drawn to the area’s quality of life. This initiative aims to unlock the potential of the arts economy by increasing the average wage for artists, reducing unemployment and further establishing the region’s reputation as an entrepreneurial hub for artists.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.