Eight federal agencies signed an agreement Nov. 12 to work with the Appalachian Regional Commission to help boost the region’s economy.
Officials who participated in the announcement at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon said the deal will not increase funding for the 13-state region but should help ensure that money is well spent.
“It’s about strategic investment,” said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan. “Sometimes small, well-targeted pieces of money make the diff erence. So I am not discouraged at all about trying to more forward aggressively and progressively in an era of tight budgets.”
The agreement establishes an Interagency Coordinating Council, consisting of representatives from each participating federal agency, to coordinate activities and collaborate with state and local government.
Earl Gohl, federal cochairman of the ARC, said the commission has made progress in addressing the region’s economic woes since its creation in the 1960s but can do better with the help of the agencies.
“Together we are stronger and our resources can go further and be more helpful,” he said.
Gohl said the commission participated in five “listening sessions” with local leaders throughout Appalachia who spoke of the need for a partnership with federal agencies.
Along with the USDA, federal participants are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration.
Commission states are Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee.