Supporting Appalachia

Through AEP’s Economic & Business Development (E&BD) efforts, we are building stronger partnerships with our local communities to help revive some of the hardest hit communities. Three states in the heart of Appalachia have been particularly hard hit by the decline of the coal industry. Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia experienced job losses, the loss of tax revenue to support local public services, and the loss of indirect economic benefits of having a locally employed workforce. In response, AEP’s E&BD team established a targeted effort to help those communities revitalize and attract new industry and jobs, and to empower them to take the lead in rebuilding their communities.

In addition to serving customers and maintaining operations in Appalachia we also live and work in these communities. It is important to us that these communities recover and thrive because their strength and growth is also good for AEP.

One significant effort underway is to create a Tri-State hub for aerospace manufacturing in Appalachia. To jumpstart this initiative – called Appalachian Sky - Kentucky Power, AEP Ohio and Appalachian Power Company have provided grants to their respective economic development community partners Ashland Alliance, Southern Ohio Port Authority, Cabell County, City of Huntington, W.Va., and Wayne County to gain AEROready certification by Common Sense Economic Development. Evaluated against 14 essential qualities in aerospace site location searches, the Tri-State region has been determined to have potential for aerospace corporations to operate successfully there. The certification will serve as a marketing tool to recruit aerospace-related business and industry to the region. Learn more about this effort.

In April 2017, Braidy Industries announced plans to locate a $1.3 billion aluminum rolling mill in the middle of Kentucky Power’s service territory. When it comes online in 2020, it will create 550 permanent manufacturing jobs and approximately 1,000 additional temporary jobs during construction. This central Appalachia economic development was supported by Kentucky Power’s E&BD team as part of the Appalachian Sky initiative, in collaboration with state and local officials.

In 2016, Appalachian Power Company awarded $155,000 in economic development grants through the Economic Development Growth Enhancement (EDGE) program. The grant supported 13 localities and nonprofit organizations throughout Virginia and West Virginia for site development, comprehensive workforce analysis, training and development, marketing and promotion of properties, and new business development and retention efforts. For the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, recipient of a $20,000 EDGE grant, this is an investment in the development of their workforce. It also supports their Refresh Appalachia program that provides educational and training opportunities for the underemployed, including former coal miners.

AEP Ohio’s Local Economic Advancement Program (LEAP) helps with funding of programs and projects that promote the creation and retention of manufacturing investment and jobs in our service territory. In 2016, AEP Ohio awarded $111,000 to 19 economic development partners through LEAP, including several grants in Ohio’s Appalachian region. For Gallia County, home of AEP’s former Gavin Plant, the grant was used to develop an aerial video of marketable industrial properties.

Morgan County used its grant to complete a water feasibility study for the State Route 60 business corridor, a project important to both the existing businesses that employ 750 people in this economically-distressed county, and to future development in the area. In addition to community support, AEP Ohio provides support directly to manufacturers through its Rate Stabilization Plan (RSP) grants. Since 2006, AEP Ohio has committed more than $8 million to help new and existing AEP Ohio customers, including a grant to support the reopening of Athens Mold & Machine in Athens County.

Kentucky Power plays an active and important role in the economic development of the 20 counties it serves in eastern Kentucky. In 2016, with the launch of the Kentucky Power Economic Growth Grants (K-PEGG) program, the company invested more than $600,000 back into the community. The grants are funded through the Kentucky Economic Development Surcharge approved in 2015 by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. Kentucky Power collects 15 cents monthly from customers and matches the customer contributions to the fund.

Applications for Kentucky Power grants are reviewed by a six-member committee composed of four Kentucky Power employees and professionals representing the Kentucky Association of Economic Development and Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet. These grants help support local collaborative economic development efforts, including:

  • A Coal Plus program designed to give Kentucky Power flexibility in designing special contracts and rate terms with new or existing coal companies that are expanding their operations and employment.
  • A $75,000 grant awarded to Big Sandy Community & Technical College to help purchase fiber optics equipment at the school’s new Advanced Technology Center. The 15,000-square-foot facility will be the first fiber-to-desk structure in Kentucky and will allow the college to train nearly 700 technicians in eastern Kentucky. The center will house the workforce development Fiber Optics Technician Training program, the first in the region, and support the new Associate in Applied Science degree in Broadband Technology.
  • A $56,000 grant to the City of Hazard and $25,000 to the Perry County Development Board to fund sewer upgrades and allow the Coal Fields Regional Industrial Part in Hazard to double its sewer capacity, something that city leaders say is needed to attract new business.
  • The repurposing by Kentucky Power of about 100 acres on the Big Sandy Plant site that is now being marketed for industrial use.

Appalachian Sky: Creating Jobs Where They Are Needed Most

In 2017, AEP launched Appalachian Sky – an initiative that began in AEP’s Kentucky territory and grew to encompass AEP territories in the Tri-State region (eastern Kentucky, southwest Ohio, and western West Virginia). The initiative’s purpose is to aggressively attract aerospace and aviation industry to AEP’s central Appalachia service region. Appalachian Sky was inspired by the intelligence and work ethic of the coal mining and steel working communities as captured in the movie “October Sky” and chronicled in the memoir “Rocket Boys” by West Virginia native Homer Hickam.

The genius of Appalachian Sky was sparked upon the completion of a comprehensive regional workforce analysis in AEP’s Kentucky territory. The team in Kentucky realized the potential of the aerospace industry as a prime candidate to diversify the central Appalachian economy. The analysis conveyed the availability of the proven skillsets desired by the aerospace industry were plentiful in the region. AEP recognized an opportunity and commissioned a leading, aerospace consultant to determine the viability of aerospace in Appalachia’s coal and steel country. The consultant produced a report certifying 17 counties as AeroReady in the Tri-State region furthering the claim that aerospace can thrive.

In the short time of Appalachian Sky initiative, the region has already seen an uptick in prospective companies considering expansion to Central Appalachia. The economic development professionals in the Tri-State region have conducted site visits and filled their sales pipeline with multiple qualified leads.