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$6.9 million pledged to support economic development in Pa.'s coal-impacted communities

“These nine projects will create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, and improve quality of life for Pennsylvanians," Gov. Wolf said Monday.
Credit: WPMT
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, will be one of two plants in the region to be shut down, affecting 380 employees. The Evironmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Obama administration have been taking major steps to get coal-fired power plants into compliance with clean air regulations.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Tom Wolf joined others today to announce more than $6.9 million being devoted to Pennsylvania's coal communities. 

The money will be used to support economic development projects for improved opportunities within the community. 

“This $6.9 million is a critical investment for our communities with economies impacted by a changing energy market,” said Gov. Wolf. “These nine projects will create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, and improve quality of life for Pennsylvanians.”

Wolf partnered with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and his gubernatorial peers for the announcement. 

The ARC's Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative seeks to diversify economies in communities and regions affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of energy production. 

“From healthcare to broadband expansion and workforce training, the projects receiving grants in this round of POWER funding show that the economic future of Pennsylvania’s coal-impacted communities is not only bright, but diverse,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin.

The $6.9 million in ARC POWER Initiative grants announced for Pennsylvania include: 


Project: Partnerships to Advance Learning in STEM (PALS) Strategic Expansion Plan 

Award Amount: $48,661 

This project will help four regional teams develop action plans to implement the PALS tutoring program, which engages pre-service educators to provide no-cost virtual tutoring to underserved K–8 learners in their communities. Across Pennsylvania, rural students in coal counties are often in underfunded and poor-performing schools that demonstrate significant achievement gaps and challenges with teacher recruitment and retention. PALS tutoring addresses these challenges by focusing on learning acceleration to help K-8 students.

Bedford County Development Association

Project: Bedford County Site Feasibility Study 

Award Amount: $50,000 

The study will evaluate three sites in Bedford County to determine the best location for a new business park. The goal of this study is to cultivate an environment where new and existing manufacturers create well-paying jobs through increased private investment and capitalization on the resurgence of manufacturing.

Erie Area Council of Governments 

Project: Erie County Broadband Expansion Feasibility Study 

Award Amount: $50,000 

The project will analyze existing broadband infrastructure and coverage gaps and recommend implementation strategies for expanding and improving local internet access throughout Erie County. The applicant will contract with an expert consultant to perform the study and with the Erie County Department of Planning and Community Development to provide economic impact data and GIS services. The project will serve 16 communities over the course of a year.

Fayette County

Project: Health Sciences Workforce Development Center 

Award Amount: $1,500,000 

This project will construct a 6,000-square-foot training center on the campus of Fayette County Career & Technical Institute (Fayette CTI), allowing Fayette CTI to enhance its Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program and meet the growing healthcare workforce needs in Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. Over the course of eighteen months, following the completion of the new facility, the project will serve 170 students with 136 anticipated to graduate.

Penn State University

Project: Realizing Automated and Advanced Manufacturing Processes (RAAMP) 

Award Amount: $750,087 

Through partnerships with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners and regional business owners, this project will help regional manufacturers modernize their production capabilities and address the shortage of skilled labor by training and upskilling an existing workforce disenfranchised by the eroding coal economy and empower Appalachians to obtain high-paying, tech-centric jobs. These efforts will improve 60 businesses, 180 workers/trainees, and 45 students through workshop training; create 10 jobs; and retain 30 jobs through modernization of business processes and professional development over the course of the 3-year grant period.

Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation
Project: Tri-State Net Zero Manufacturing Initiative 

Award Amount: $1,375,961 

To help address both the global climate crisis and the region's economic reliance on coal, the project will help small and medium manufacturers participate in the growing supply chain for net-zero energy and decarbonization sectors. In partnership with Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers at Catalyst Connection, West Virginia University, and Ohio MAGNET, the project will engage and connect manufacturers with strategies and opportunities; incentivize the deployment of net zero supply chain and clean factory strategies by providing "Net Zero Manufacturing Mini-Grants"; and identify pathways to scale up net zero manufacturing, among other activities. The project will serve 47 counties, produce two plans/reports, implement three programs, serve 300 businesses, create 120 jobs and 25 new businesses, and leverage $360,000 in additional private investment.

Saint Francis University 

Project: Aviation Workforce Training Center 

Award Amount: $1,000,000 

Through collaboration with industry partners—including the Johnston-Cambria County Airport Authority, Cambria County, Nulton Aviation Services, and Sky West Airlines—to ensure compliance with FAA regulations and intersection with industry needs, the project will establish an Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) school at the John Murtha Johnston–Cambria County Airport. The school will provide the coal-impacted workforce with aviation maintenance training and certifications, helping individuals create pathways into secure, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the growing aviation industry and related sectors.

The Learning Lamp

Project: Child Care Works for the Southern Alleghenies 

Award Amount: $756,690 

The project will increase child care supply and put more people back to work in a rural, coal-impacted region of west-central Pennsylvania where there is not enough quality and affordable child care to meet local workforce demands. In addition to increasing child care supply, the project will bolster the early learning workforce through educational opportunities and encourage individuals to build their own home-based childcare businesses. The project's four-pronged approach includes recruiting early childhood workers and directing them into education and career pathways through pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships to increase skills and wages; piloting the micro-center child care model as a solution for the child care shortage in rural communities; launching a Staffed Family Child Care Network campaign to increase the number of home-based child care providers in the region, and completing a child care expansion and quality improvement project currently underway in heavily coal-impacted Somerset County.

Venango County 

Project: Erie to Pittsburgh Trails/PA Wilds Loop Construction—Phase II 

Award Amount: $1,385,920 

For Phase II construction of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail/PA Wilds Loop Trail, closing gaps in connectivity along both trails. Both trails are part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, an initiative to connect the area’s population centers via destination trails that will attract users locally and nationally. After two years, 15,840 linear feet of new trail will be built, attracting an expected 6,300 new day visitors and 2,100 new overnight visitors.

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