On the cusp of celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Appalachian Regional Commission plans to assess and highlight its impact on the 13-state region it serves.
With a grant of nearly $300,000, a three-agency collaborative — two from West Virginia University — will conduct an economic analysis of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s work, providing a narrative of the region’s progress since 1965. The project team consists of the Regional Research Institute and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, both from WVU, and the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, a nonprofit research organization based in Arlington, Virginia.
The team brings together nationally recognized expertise in regional quantitative and economic impact analysis, economic development policy design and implementation, economic development program evaluation, and local and regional economic development strategic planning. All of the senior researchers on the team also have direct experience working in Appalachia as well as in rural and distressed communities elsewhere.
“This research, which will help identify which economic development strategies are most effective, will ultimately help the ARC and others design stronger economic development strategies in the future,” said Dr. John Deskins, director of the BBER, which is housed within the WVU College of Business and Economics.
Randy Jackson, director of the Regional Research Institute, said the project brings together strong research entities and has appeal beyond the 13-state Appalachian Regional Commission region. “We have an opportunity here to assess and really develop a deep understanding of the tangible effects of regional economic development programs,” said Jackson. “Not only is this the ARC’s 50th anniversary, it’s also our own RRI 50th anniversary. Both organizations have been dedicated to regional economic development for a half century, so we are delighted to take part in this landmark study.”
Specifically, the project will examine socioeconomic trends in Appalachia, analyze the economic impacts of numerous Appalachian Regional Commission economic development programs, and determine the perceptions of local stakeholders regarding past impacts and future directions of Appalachian Regional Commission programs. Work on the project has already started and is expected to conclude in the fall of this year, coinciding with Appalachian Regional Commission’s 50th anniversary.
“This is one of the largest grants the ARC has ever awarded,” said Dr. Ken Poole, Founder and President of CREC. “It’s an ambitious project and a cornerstone of the ARC’s retrospective look at its first 50 years. We look forward to working with West Virginia University to create a multifaceted and comprehensive assessment of the ARC’s impact on the lives of people in the Appalachian Region.” It marks the second project collaboration between Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Deskins emphasized the importance of examining the effectiveness of Appalachian Regional Commission’s involvement in the 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. The Appalachian Region includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Statistics show that 42 percent of the region’s population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population.
About the partners
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC is composed of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair, who is appointed by the president. Local participation is provided through multi-county local development districts.
The Regional Research Institute (RRI) at West Virginia University (WVU) promotes scholarly research focusing on theories and history of regional development, methods for studying regions, and policies for stimulating their development.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at West Virginia University (WVU) provides the state’s business and policymaking communities with reliable data and rigorous applied economic research and analysis that enables the state’s leaders to design better business practices and public policies.
The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization founded to provide policy-makers from around the world with the information and technical assistance they need to formulate and execute innovative, regional, job-creating economic strategies.
CONTACT: John Deskins, Ph.D., WVU College of Business and Economics
Randy Jackson, Director, Regional Research Institute
Greg Roth, Communications, Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness
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