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Encouraging: Gayle Manchin a good addition to ARC

Residents of Appalachia would be hard pressed to tell anyone what the Appalachian Regional Commission has done for them lately. Perhaps that is about to change, with the addition of former West Virginia first lady Gayle Manchin as federal co-chair of the ARC.

Though the organization has been around since 1965, Manchin is the first of its co-chairs to come from West Virginia, despite the Mountain State being the only one entirely within the ARC’s jurisdiction. Her time as first lady in a state that has experienced to the full the struggles affecting the rest of Appalachia should give her a good starting point for turning the ARC toward actually fulfilling its mission.

In its own words, that mission is “strengthening Appalachia’s economy and helping the Region’s 13 states achieve economic parity with the rest of the Nation.” Again, those words were written in 1965.

Manchin has watched an entire state’s economy flail under the pressure to diversify, she has seen substance abuse ravage a population, and — speaking of that population — she has watched it shrink, too. She knows how much help we need with quality, affordable broadband internet access, and finishing road projects that could be game-changers. She plans to visit all 13 states under the ARC and “see what the commonalities are — and what the uniqueness is — so that as we move forward through the coming year we can do as much as possible to provide the resources the states need.”

Good. Fifty-six years ago, the organizers of the ARC understood Appalachia “while abundant in natural resources and rich in potential, lags behind the rest of the Nation in its economic growth and that its people have not shared properly in the Nation’s prosperity.”

It is encouraging to have someone like Gayle Manchin at the helm now, who is capable of making sure the ARC begins working to do something about that.

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