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Report says infrastructure investments in Appalachia paying big

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

Investments in infrastructure are paying off in this region and across Appalachia.

Public works and infrastructure projects supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission, such as the Benedum Airport expansion, are boosting economic growth and creating jobs, according to a report released Wednesday on Capitol Hill by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

"I am especially pleased to see the success of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex in Bridgeport, West Virginia, singled out in this report," said Gov. Cecil H. Underwood and ARC States' co-chairman.

The report showed that the Benedum Airport project has created nearly 1,600 jobs and generated income of about $27 million.

"ARC's initial investment in the Benedum airport complex a decade ago has played a critical role in the growth of the aerospace industry in North Central West Virginia," Underwood said.

The ARC has invested $1.5 million in Benedum Airport, said Mike Kiernan of the ARC. In 1990 the organization invested $999,000 and then an additional $500,000 this March.

"We helped them extend the runway and recently gave money for the hangar expansion," Kiernan said.

Harrison, Taylor and Marion counties are the primary areas affected by the development, according to the report.

"Anytime a community develops or extends a service such as what is happened at Benedum Airport, it will assist the community and surrounding counties to be more competitive in economic development and specifically airport-type projects," said Joe Gero, executive director of the Harrison County Economic Development Authority.

The complete study examined the benefits of the ARC's investments into 99 infrastructure projects including industrial parks, access roads, business incubators and water and sewer systems. The projects studied were from all 13 Appalachian states between 1990 and 1997.

"This is the first systematic look at whether we were meeting our projections, and it showed that 75 percent of the projects either met or exceeded the projected goals," Kiernan said. "The other projects are coming close."

The investments have also spurred jobs, wages, tax revenues, private investment, manufacturing and business vitality, according to the report.

Independent consultants Brandow Company of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and the Economic Development Research Group of Boston conducted the study.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1443.

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