Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

As a member state of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Georgia has effectively used federal funds to make strategic investments in projects to assist communities, support business development and job creation, and improve economic opportunities for hardworking Georgians in the Appalachian region.

The 37 counties of North Georgia — from Trenton to Elberton, and Rabun Gap to Rockmart — are all part of the ARC footprint. We are proud to have some of the best trout fishing east of the Mississippi, thousands of acres of state and national forests, and farmland that feeds all of America.

We’ve used ARC funds to help local governments and development authorities create industrial parks that have become home to a weaving business in Lavonia, a Nissan brake facility in Walker County and the Hanwha Q CELLS factory in Dalton. Our ARC investments have provided the opportunity for industry to create thousands of jobs in the region and grow local economies.

ARC funds also allow us to help rural counties with economic development planning so they can recruit new or existing industries that fit their community’s needs. The state has utilized ARC funds to help downtown areas plan for and implement changes to assist small businesses and create new jobs. In Rockmart, the state is helping the local community take advantage of the Silver Comet Trail by assisting with the construction of an amphitheater and event facility. Similarly, in Hartwell, ARC funds were allocated to implement stormwater redirection so the city can continue to grow its thriving downtown arts district.

Additionally, ARC has provided funding for the city of Rome to upgrade infrastructure in its Federal Opportunity Zone, which will allow the city to market itself as an attractive investment option for businesses and individuals. I’m thankful to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, as well as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) for leading efforts to implement opportunity zones across the country. Opportunity zones have proven to make economic prosperity a reality for distressed areas across Georgia and the United States.

Access to a quality education and affordable healthcare are key to the future prosperity of Georgia’s rural communities. That’s why the Department of Community Affairs directed ARC funds to invest in telecommunications upgrades in the Elbert Memorial Hospital so residents could access care via telehealth, rather than making time-consuming and costly trips to Athens or even South Carolina. In Polk County, the state invested in One Door Polk, helping finance a dental clinic that served more than 3,000 patients who previously had no access to dental care in its first year. ARC also worked with the Gainesville-Hall Development Authority to create an apprenticeship program that helped current employees of small manufacturers gain on-the-job training and advanced certifications. These apprenticeships helped employees achieve greater earning power, while helping small businesses improve their efficiency and upgrade their product lines.

As the top state for business for a record-breaking eighth straight year, it is vital for opportunity and economic prosperity to reach all corners of Georgia – not just metro-Atlanta. These targeted ARC investments allow the state and rural communities to attract private investment dollars to small towns and counties where capital investment and development projects can make a significant, positive impact on their future.

Georgia is a proud member state of the Appalachian Regional Commission, and we will continue to invest ARC funds wisely to ensure Georgia remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

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Brian Kemp is governor of Georgia. This opinion editorial is part of a series from Governors of the states that comprise the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) footprint, as well as the ARC Federal Co-Chair. The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development 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 to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

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