Funding expected to leverage more than $4 million in private investment

LONDON, Ky. —Today, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation was awarded $1.5 million by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a project to increase access to capital and technical assistance for businesses as well as boost employee skills and training.

This award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”

The Kentucky Highlands Empowerment Zone/Promise Zone (EZ/PZ) Project will target the Kentucky Promise Zone counties (Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley), the former Empowerment Zone Counties (Jackson, Wayne and Clinton) and McCreary County. The goal is to create 400 to 425 new jobs as well as increase education and training for 400 workers. 

It will include four components:

  • A $650,000 revolving loan fund to offer stabilization and expansion capital to businesses and organizations that serve the public good, such as health-care entities;
  • Business management and technical assistance from KHIC staff;
  • $150,000 to launch the Career Ladder Incentive Program, which will enhance employees’ skills by reimbursing organizations 50 percent of tuition and fees for each employee completing a certificate or training; and
  • Work with EKCEP to expand Teleworks USA, a remote-work training and job placement program, to Clinton, Wayne and Whitley counties.

“The project will meet several crucial needs in our region,” said Jerry Rickett, president and CEO of Kentucky Highlands. “It will address a shortage in capital investment available to local businesses, provide much-needed specialized technical assistance, boost labor participation rates by expanding remote work opportunities and increase employees’ upward mobility through career-advancing continuing education. We’ll leverage several assets — more than 50 years of small business investing and technical assistance experience, the Empowerment Zone 5-year employee tax credit extension, and the remaining 33 months of the Promise Zone designation benefits.” 

Project partners include Woodforest Bank; EKCEP; Bell, Wayne, and Whitley County Fiscal Courts to implement Teleworks USA; and the elder and primary care organizations American Health Management, Grace Health, Dayspring Health and Pineville Community Health Center, Inc.

KHIC expects the ARC loan fund also will attract more than $4 million of other private investment. The three-year project also will be matched with cash and in-kind services.

 Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create/retain over 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region. 

ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, drew on 72 stories representing 44 unique POWER projects funded between fiscal years 2015-2020 to determine the most significant changes that occurred as a result of POWER.

The evaluation found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.

About Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, founded in 1968 to stimulate economic growth in nine counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, now serves 22 counties in the region and has created or maintained more than 25,000 jobs. Visit for additional information.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

The Appalachian Regional Commission ( is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia.