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Grant will fund road in Jefferson
Lanier Tech also gets 2 grants for education
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City of Jefferson officials are hoping that a planned road will be more than just an avenue for transportation - they are also hoping the path will lead to increased economic development.

With financial assistance in the form of a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Jefferson officials are planning to build a local access road to its McClure Industrial Park.

"This grant will help us to improve transportation to one of our industrial parks. We will be using the money to extend the existing road with the anticipation that it will open up more industrial land for development," said Jeff Killip, Jefferson public works director.

The grant that will be used to construct the road in Jefferson is one of 17 financial gifts given to cities, counties and community organizations in the Appalachian region by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The commission has given a total of about $3 million in Georgia with individual grants ranging from $20,000 to $500,000. Jefferson's grant was the largest.

The goal of the commission is to work with "the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life."

Currently, Killip says the only occupant of McClure Industrial Park is Kubota International Equipment. With more than 500 employees, the Kubota plant in Jefferson is the third-largest employer in all of Jackson County, according to the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce

After the new access road is complete and more land is opened up for industry, city officials "anticipate that it will bring more jobs to the area," Killip said.

The city of Jefferson wasn't the only local recipient of a grant from the Appalachian commission. Helen also received $300,000 for a water system improvement project, and Gainesville received $45,900 to help with the installation of energy-efficient LED traffic signals at several intersections.

Lanier Technical College also received two grants, one for $55,000, which will be used to develop a Solar Energy Installation Education program, and the other, totaling more than $149,000 and received in partnership with Jackson County, will be used in the development of an industrial systems technology training lab.

"We'll be using the industrial systems grant to expand an existing program and grow the facility so that we can expand the number of students that we can take in," said Linda Barrow, Lanier Technical College vice president of academic affairs.

"Right now we have around 35 students in that program. Expanding the program will help us to better meet the needs of area manufacturers.

"If a piece of equipment in a manufacturing lines goes down, companies can lose thousands of dollars per hour, so it is important to have trained technicians that can do preventative maintenance to keep that from happening and to be able to trouble shoot the equipment if it does go down."

In order to be eligible for a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, applicants must meet community improvement requirements as outlined by the commission.

Among other things, the projects that the funds are slated for also must increase job opportunities and per capita income for the region, strengthen the region's ability to compete in a global economy or "build the Appalachian Development Highway System to reduce Appalachia's isolation."

The Appalachian region spans from southern New York to northern Mississippi and follows the Appalachian Mountains through 13 different states including portions of Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.