When visiting Lanier Technical College’s Manufacturing and Development Center, a quick look around shows how funds from an Appalachian Regional Commission grant were spent.
“The money we got through the grant allowed us to put the infrastructure in place that our clients could benefit from (in later years),” said Russell Vandiver, Lanier Tech interim president. “We thought it was better to use the money for those things instead of funding salaries because after a year, that money would be gone if it were spent on employee salaries. But by purchasing equipment, our clients can still benefit from it today.”
Seeing how the commission’s money was spent was exactly what Earl Gohl had in mind when he visited Hall County Wednesday.
Since being sworn in as ARC co-chairman in March, Gohl has been touring the commission’s 205,000-square-mile region to see how its money is being spent. The region’s jurisdiction follows the Appalachian Mountains and spans from the southern tip of New York to Mississippi.
“We’ve made a number of investments in the area, and the idea was to come and look at what folks have been able to accomplish,” Gohl said. “Our job is to work with people so they have resources to fulfill their dreams, and that’s what we (have been seeing during the tour).”
In addition to job creation, the commission’s goals include strengthening workers to compete in the global economy and improving Appalachia’s infrastructure in order to make the region more economically competitive.
ARC’s $250,000 helped the manufacturing center build the groundwork for the Chestnut Street business incubator that has grown to create more than 80 jobs and has helped more than 100 companies launch ideas or stay in business.
“We’re all about jobs — that’s Lanier Tech,” said Carroll Turner, manufacturing center director. “We’re all about creating companies, thereby in creating jobs.”
According to Turner, with the help of ARC funds, the center has had a more than $8 million impact on the community between services offered, jobs created and product sales through the manufacturing center.
Lanier Tech also used $55,000 in ARC grant funds to help develop two solar energy certificate programs.
During his trip to Northeast Georgia, Gohl spent time in Cleveland and at the Health Access Initiative office in Gainesville.