As the world moves toward alternative and renewable sources of energy, the United States’ coal industry has been in a state of decline.

According to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Appalachia lost nearly 10,500 coal mining jobs in 2016, and a total of 33,500 coal mining jobs between 2011 and 2016.

In an effort to address the changing economics of energy, ARC has awarded $92 million through the POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative to help coal-impacted communities in 250 Appalachian counties diversify and grow their economies.

These investments are designed to create or retain about 8,600 jobs, leverage an additional $206 million in investment and prepare thousands of workers and students with globally competitive skills and opportunities in local manufacturing, technology, entrepreneurship, agriculture and other emerging sectors, according ARC.

“Mini-grant dollars may be used to support direct, project-related consulting costs, contracted services, software purchases, supplies, and one-time costs related to the implementation of advanced manufacturing technology cost,” said Mitchell.

Catalyst Connection, a private not-for-profit organization that provides consulting and training services to small manufacturers, administers the ARC grant program to counties right here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“The Power mini-grant is designed to assist coal-impacted community’s response to negative economic factors by diversifying and growing small and medium-sized manufacturers through strategic efforts to build capacity, improve efficiencies and demand locally, stimulate job creation, and drive economic impact,” said Petra Mitchell, President and CEO of Catalyst Connection.

Applicants may request a grant to cover 30% of the total advanced manufacturing technology project cost up to a maximum grant award of $10,000. Awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to first-time applicants.

“Mini-grant dollars may be used to support direct, project-related consulting costs, contracted services, software purchases, supplies, and one-time costs related to the implementation of advanced manufacturing technology cost,” said Mitchell. “The project must be completed and fully paid for by December 31, 2017.”

Program Eligibility

Applicants requesting mini-grant assistance through this program must meet all of the criteria listed below to be eligible for funding consideration:

•Be a small- to medium-sized manufacturer located within the 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington or Westmoreland counties).

•Complete a technical assessment and assistance process by Catalyst Connection.

•Have a clearly defined and readily advanced technology project which aligns with the recommendations resulting from the technical assessment and assistance process.

•Provide at least a 70% match to total project cost. Applicants must be able to cover the total project costs until grant reimbursement is issued.

•Initiate the project no earlier than January 1, 2017 and complete implementation with company payment of the total project costs by December 31, 2017.

•Participate in post-award surveying to collect information on project status, economic impacts and other information as requested. Applicants who have not previously received a mini-grant award through this program in the last grant cycle will be given priority for funding.  

•The complete guidelines for the ARC Power mini-grants can be found in this document.

Grant funds are for the implementation of Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT). AMT is the use of new processes/materials to do things faster, cheaper and with higher quality results. 

This can include technologies for continuous improvement and leveraging access to high- speed Internet to reach new customers or markets, receive orders, collaborate on new designs, share information, track orders, and/or monitor equipment and productivity. Examples of applicable projects:

1. Market Diversification — market diversification strategy development and execution; website development/optimization; market opportunity research and analysis; sales training and coaching

2. AMT Adoption — continuous improvement initiatives; leveraging high-speed Internet to reach new customers or markets, collaborate on new designs, track orders, and/or monitor equipment and productivity; managing cyber security risks; adopting new technologies such as additive manufacturing

3. Innovation — product or process development

For more information, contact Connie Palucka at cpalucka@catalystconnection.org, 412-918-4259, or Matt Holjes at mholjes@catalystconnection.org, 412-918-4262.