Appalachian Regional Commission

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Areas included within the Appalachian Regional Commission's charter

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a United States federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life. The Commission is a partnership of 420 counties or county-equivalents in 13 states (including eight independent cities in Virginia, where state law makes cities administratively separate from counties),[1] and the governors of West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and a presidential appointee representing the federal government. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The current Federal Co-Chair is Earl F. Gohl, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010. The current States' Co-Chair is Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. Grassroots participation is provided through 73 local development districts, which are multi-county organizations with boards made up of elected officials, businesspeople, and other local leaders. The mission of ARC is to be a strategic partner and advocate for sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia. The ARC is a planning, research, advocacy and funding organization; it does not have any governing powers within the region.


Beginning in about 1960, the Council of Appalachian Governors, a group of the ten governors of the Appalachian states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, united to seek federal government assistance for the mountainous portions of their states, which lagged behind the rest of the United States in income, education, health care, and transportation. During the 1960 Presidential campaign, candidate John F. Kennedy met with the governors to hear their concerns and observed living conditions in West Virginia that convinced him of the need for federal assistance to address the region's problems.[2]

Another catalyst that helped lead to the creation of the ARC was the 1962 book Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area by Harry M. Caudill on the poverty and history of the Cumberland area of Appalachia, predominantly in Kentucky. This book brought the situation in Appalachia to national attention.[3]

In 1963 President Kennedy formed the President's Appalachian Regional Commission to assist in advancing legislation to bring federal dollars to Appalachia. This legislation, the Appalachian Redevelopment Act, was enacted by Congress in 1965, creating the ARC as a federal agency.[2] It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on March 9, 1965.[4]

The ARC's geographic range of coverage was defined broadly to cover as many economically underdeveloped areas as possible; as a result, it extends beyond the geographic area usually thought of as "Appalachia". For instance, parts of Mississippi were included in the commission because of similar problems with unemployment and poverty. More recently, the Youngstown, Ohio region was declared part of Appalachia by the ARC due to the collapse of the steel industry in the region in the early 1980s and the continuing unemployment problems in the region since, though aside from Columbiana County, Ohio the Youngstown DMA isn't traditionally or culturally considered part of the region. The ARC's wide scope also grew out of the "pork barrel" phenomenon as politicians from outside the traditional Appalachian area saw a new way to bring home federal money to their areas.[5]

ARC projects

ARC undertakes projects that address the four goals identified by ARC in its strategic plan:

  • Increase job opportunities and per capita income in Appalachia to reach parity with the nation.
  • Strengthen the capacity of the people of Appalachia to compete in the global economy.
  • Develop and improve Appalachia's infrastructure to make the region economically competitive.
  • Build the Appalachian Development Highway System to reduce Appalachia's isolation.

To meet these goals, ARC helps fund such projects as education and workforce training programs, highway construction, water and sewer system construction, small business start-ups and expansions, and development of health care resources.

How ARC works

Each year Congress appropriates funds, which ARC allocates among its member states. The Appalachian governors submit to ARC their state spending plans for the year, which include lists of projects they recommend for funding. The spending plans are reviewed and approved at a meeting of all the governors and the federal co-chair.

The next step is approval of individual projects by the ARC federal co-chair. After the states submit project applications to ARC, each project is reviewed by ARC program analysts. The process is completed when the federal co-chair reviews a project and formally approves it.

See also


  1. Counties in Appalachia, Appalachian Regional Commission website, accessed March 15, 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jean Haskell Speer, "Appalachian Regional Commission," in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
  3. McKinney, Gordon B., review of "Extracting Appalachia: Images of the Consolidation Coal Company, 1910–1945", and "To Move a Mountain: Fighting the Global Economy in Appalachia" in Enterprise & Society, Volume 5, Number 4, December 2004, pp. 721–724.

    "For Appalachian scholars in all disciplines, the domination of the region's economy by outside interests is a well-established fact. This historical development was welcomed by local elites in the period after the Civil War as a way to revive the moribund regional economy. With the collapse of the Appalachian economy in the 1920s, the advent of the Great Depression, and the War on Poverty in the 1960s, the early industrialists later seemed more like villains than saviors. This latter attitude was given voice by Harry M. Caudill, a lawyer from eastern Kentucky. In 1962, he published Night Comes to the Cumberlands that reached a broad national audience. The book's impact was considerable and is often credited with helping to create the Appalachian Regional Commission."

  4. James P. Ziliak, "The Appalachian Regional Development Act and Economic Change," Center for Poverty Research, 16 September 2010. Retrieved: 19 February 2013.
  5. Mark Ferenchik and Jill Riepenhoff, "Appalachia: Hollow Promises: Federal Tax Dollars Miss the Mark in Core Appalachia," Columbus Dispatch, 26 September 1999.

Further reading

  • Caudill, Harry M. (1962). Night Comes to the Cumberlands. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-13212-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Weinbaum, Eve S, "To Move a Mountain: Fighting the Global Economy in Appalachia", New York: New Press, 2004. 340 pp., ISBN 1-56584-784-9

External links