ARC grant announced to help local entrepreneurs

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This morning the Appalachian Regional Commission  announced a $500,000 grant to LaunchTN in Knoxville for its Entrepreneurial Education and Workforce Development project, which provides support services to innovators, entrepreneurs, and early-stage companies. According to an AR press release, the funds will help expand programs to help rural youth generate innovative ideas, increase access to technology and business support, build a roadmap to the marketplace for entrepreneurs from East Tennessee colleges and universities, and “elevate opportunities for independent makers and local craft manufacturers.”

These programs will focus primarily on counties impacted by the loss of coal jobs, including Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Cumberland, Fentress, Grundy, Marion, Morgan, Scott, and Sequatchie. According to the press release, the project is expected to result in 31 new businesses and 60 new jobs created, as well as roughly $154,000 in leveraged private investment.

Launch TN reports that it has has helped more than 500 companies start or accelerate their growth since 2012. One of its components is the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center on Market Square, which provides mentoring to small businesses.

The grant is one of 18 , for a total value of $15.7 million, announced Wednesday by ARC, which estimates the grants will create or retain more than 1,700 jobs and benefit nearly 1,200 students and workers. The 50-year-old Appalachian Regional Commission has been targeted for elimination in Pres. Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget. According to the agency, every dollar it has spent since 1978 has leveraged an average of $6.40 from the private sector.

S. Heather Duncan has won numerous awards for her feature writing and coverage of the environment, government, education, business and local history during her 15-year reporting career. Originally from Western North Carolina, Heather has worked for Radio Free Europe, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, and several daily newspapers. Heather spent almost a dozen years at The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., where she spent most of her time covering the environment or writing project-investigations that provoked changes such as new laws related to day care and the protection of environmentally-sensitive lands. You can reach Heather at

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