Rutherford County’s $873,509 ARC grant at risk
WNC's ARC Funding eliminated in proposed US budget
WNC – President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” could mean bad news for North Carolina. The proposed budget calls for the elimination of funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, “a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state and local government. residents living in any of the 29 counties in the 13 state Appalachian region. Burke, Caldwell, Rutherford and Cleveland counties are included in the ARC region.
The purpose stated for cutting some programs, including the ARC, the Chemical Safety Board, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, is to provide a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
Governor Roy Cooper has recommended eight community and regional projects in Western North Carolina for Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding. The recommendations total more than $3 million in ARC funds.
“The Appalachian Regional Commission is a longtime, valued partner in regional economic development for our state,” said Governor Cooper. “From enhancing STEM education to improving broadband access, these projects support jobs and local businesses in communities across Western North Carolina.”
The North Carolina ARC program, part of NC Commerce, makes an initial review of funding requests in order to assure consistency with state and federal guidelines. Final recommendations are formally made by Governor Cooper. Then ARC makes the final decision on the grant recipients which will be announced later this year.
Governor Cooper recommended the following applicants and projects:
- Town of Blowing Rock – $10,000 ARC grant request
Funds would be used to expand the town’s Wi-Fi network to cover the entire downtown business district off Sunset Drive. It will serve 10 businesses.
- Blue Ridge National Heritage Area – $90,000 ARC grant request
Funds would be used to plan, develop and implement the Blue Ridge Craft Trails. This relaunch of the Handmade in America craft trails would focus on supporting the crafters with accessing markets online. This project will result in improving 75 businesses.
- Haywood Community College – $100,000 ARC grant request
Funds would equip the Advanced Machining Incubator at Haywood Community College. This project could create seven small businesses.
- Land of Sky Regional Council – $47,500 ARC grant request
Funds would identify local assets and develop community plans for broadband deployment. This project could result in a regional broadband plan called the Next Generation Network for Western North Carolina.
- City of Morganton – $1,374,714 ARC grant request
Funds would support the construction of an access road to a new commercial development. This project could create 45 jobs and leverage approximately $2.7 million in private investment.
- Rutherford County – $873,509 ARC grant request
Funds would widen and repave more than three miles of Jack McKinney Road (SR 1111) to improve access to a vacant industrial facility. This access road investment will improve the marketability of a 217-thousand-square-foot building on 65 acres and improve traffic safety for the community.
- Town of Sparta – $300,000 ARC grant request
Funds would create a town streetscape with improvements including sidewalks, benches, landscaping and lighting to serve the community and 20 businesses.
- Western Piedmont Council of Governments – $100,000
Funds will assist teachers in Alexander, Burke and Caldwell Counties develop problem-based learning related to local industries. This program would serve 2,160 students.
The U.S. Congress created ARC in 1965 to improve the lives of the people in Appalachia. Federal funding is allocated to North Carolina and 12 other states that make up the Appalachian region. North Carolina counties eligible to receive funding are Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Davie, Forsyth, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, McDowell, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes, Yadkin and Yancey.
The next step in the federal budgeting process is for Congress to create its own recommendations and budget plan; fiscal year 2018 begins Oct. 1.