EDITORIAL: A program that works

By NEMS Daily Journal

Public focus on federal spending for the past three yeas has veered away from positive results and focused on what’s been lost in the persistent recessionary economic climate, but some federal dollars continue delivering the same steady results that have marked parts of five decades.
The Appalachian Regional Commission’s Mississippi division issued its annual summary last week, and its strategy continues paying off in federal-state-local-private partnerships that produce jobs, infrastructure and enhancements to education and health care.
The ARC, whose counties stretch from New York to Kemper County in east central Mississippi, hasn’t lost its touch in forming creative collaborations that multiply in time to produce major economic impacts.
Mike Armour heads the Mississippi office in Tupelo, an appointee of Gov. Haley Barbour – continuing the historic practice of gubernatorial patronage by both parties in our state.
Armour offered an impressive summation of ARC’s impact for the past 45 years – since its 1965 founding during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson:
“From 1965 to 2010 ARC Mississippi has funded roughly 1,700 projects with $260 million invested directly. ARC is sometimes referred to as the glue that makes a project work. On average, every $1 invested brings another $9 in private and public investment. That increases the total impact to over $2.3 billion in total investment since 1965.”
The overall goal of ARC is to “reduce the socioeconomic gap between the 13-state Appalachian region and the rest of the nation,” to use its own words, and it marks some notable successes.
Mississippi has 24 counties in ARC: 12 are distressed counties and eight are at-risk counties economically speaking.
In those counties during the past year $5.583 million in ARC non-highway funds were invested, matched by $5.559 million in other public funds and leveraging $48.44 million in private funds.
That activity supported creation and/or retention of 2,239 jobs and provided training opportunities to 4,393 students/trainees.
Investment equals opportunity plus training equals jobs.
The four-year ARC record is noteworthy:
• $31.555 million in ARC non-highway funds were invested, matched by $78.376 million in other public funds and leveraging $493.58 million in private funds.
• Supported the creation or retention of 9,849 jobs.
• Provided training opportunities to 1,358 students/trainees.
• Served 7,844 households by infrastructure improvements.
• Completed or opened 12.7 miles of highways.
• Across the entire 420 counties in Appalachia, 2010 investments totaled $75.12 million, matched by $226.35 million in other public funds and leveraging $462.28 million in private funds
• About 24,440 jobs were created.
The underlying secret in ARC’s success is non-partisan networking: Where’s there’s opportunity and a will to work together, ARC historically has been willing. It cannot and does not seek to be the kingpin of anything. It tries and succeeds in becoming the economic leaven to grow something larger and/or better.
Another reason ARC succeeds is because its states’ governors always have been deeply involved. When governors want to succeed, the agencies they oversee work better, Republican and Democratic.
If Congress and presidents worked together across aisles as well as ARC our nation’s problems would be on the way to resolution.
(Have questions about ARC? Call Director Mike Armour at 662- 844-1184 in Tupelo.)