WASHINGTON — Morehead State University has been awarded a $497,305 Appalachian Regional Commission grant for the next phase of Shaping Our Appalachian Region Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics project.
The program is one of four that ARC has invested in, totaling $1.87 million in grants to help expand and diversify the economy in the coalfields of southern and eastern Kentucky.
The goal of MSU’s SOAR STEM project is to develop a highly skilled STEM workforce that can foster job growth and business expansion in an area that has experienced major job losses because of the decline in coal.
It has four main areas of focus: upskilling teachers so they receive National Board Certification; training high school teachers across 27 counties of eastern Kentucky to implement curriculum developed by Project Lead The Way, a nationally recognized developer of K-12 STEM education curricula and professional development; supporting the development of Mentoring Centers-partnerships.
All of the projects benefiting from ARC will help create new jobs, support new businesses, enhance work-force training and education, promote exports of Appalachian-made crafts and products and boost tourism efforts in the region.
“The ARC continues to help empower southern and eastern Kentuckians through critical funding for projects that will inspire folks to start a dream business, strengthen our STEM education and workforce development efforts, and revitalize tourism in our region,” said U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, Rep. 5th. “This funding works in concert with the mission of SOAR as we reimagine and diversify our rural communities.”
The Kentucky projects are part of a total ARC investment totaling $15.7 million for 18 projects in seven Appalachian states.
The ARC awarded funding through the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative for the following additional projects:
- $1 million ARC grant to Community Ventures Corporation in Lexington for the Build Appalachia Loan Fund project. The fund will provide affordable capital to educational institutions in Appalachian Kentucky and West Virginia who will own, operate and manage facilities eligible for New Markets Tax Credits.
The loan fund will provide gap financing for major projects and will attract primary and leveraged financing for the construction or renovation of college facilities.
A strategic partner in the fund is the Appalachian College Association, a group of four-year private educational institutions that seek new sources of investment capital.
The fund’s focus will be in health-care-related higher education, given that much of the region is medically underserved and there is strong demand for qualified health professionals.
Additional financial support for the fund is being provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and the Opportunity Finance Network.
The fund will leverage $50 million in private investment in five projects, creating 500 new jobs in healthcare-related activities.
- $300,000 ARC grant to Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland for the Selling to the World Initiative.
- $80,000 ARC technical assistance grant for Eastern Kentucky PRIDE Inc. in Somerset for the Restoring PRIDE in Kentucky’s Appalachia project.
PRIDE, along with the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University and Union College, will develop a tourism-based strategic plan for 41 counties in eastern Kentucky, an area impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.