Appalachian Regional Commission Selects Virginia Tech Team To Do Targeted Economic Development Assistance

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 7, 2003 – The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has chosen a team from Virginia Tech to provide special targeted assistance for local economic development in Dickenson and Wise counties in Virginia. The new program, called Technical Assistance to Distressed Communities, will provide local leaders with the opportunity to identify and implement a project of critical local concern with the help of the Virginia Tech team at no cost to the communities.

"Virginia Tech was chosen because the team brought a diverse array of skills to the table, including community facilitation, economic analysis, and strategic planning in addition to economic development," says Kostas Skordas, regional planner for ARC. "Given their experience working with small rural communities in the planning process, we thought they would be very good at helping communities within a reasonable distance that are just starting their strategic planning."

ARC is a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life. Technical Assistance to Distressed Communities steers resources to areas in greatest need within the region. It is meant to build a community's native ability to solve development problems with feasible and reliable solutions

ARC selected Dickenson and Wise counties from among several applicants in Virginia. These communities have shown a high interest in and potential for successfully tackling their own community development problems, but need extra resources to complete an action plan and achieve results.

John Aughenbaugh of the Economic Development Assistance Center (EDAC) is the project leader from Virginia Tech. Kathryn Young of the Institute for Policy Outreach, Susan Caruvana of EDAC, and Chad Miller of Public Service Programs complete the assistance team. EDAC and Public Service Programs are part of University Outreach and International Affairs. The Institute for Policy Outreach is part of the Center for Public Administration and Policy.

The project commenced with an ARC-sponsored workshop on January 22-23 2003 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va. The target communities from Virginia joined with those from Tennessee to convene for interactive community strategy sessions and meetings with their appointed consultants. The strategy sessions included leadership training and were led by Milan Wall of the Heartland Center for Leadership Development in Lincoln, Neb. ARC has also selected a team from the University of Tennessee to provide similar assistance in eastern Tennessee.

Virginia Tech will follow up the workshop by facilitating the development of community-based action plans during the next six to eight months. With Virginia Tech's guidance, the community will also prepare two grant proposals to secure funding for their projects. At the end of the program, all participants will attend a workshop that will focus on the problems and opportunities identified, future direction for their projects, and lessons learned from the experience.

For more information on the targeted assistance program, contact Aughenbaugh at 540/231-4004. For more information about the Appalachian Regional Commission or the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, contact Skordas at (202)884-7720 or visit the ARC web site at .