By Wayne Allen
Representatives from several state and federal agencies were in Portsmouth Friday morning to awarded Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 577 $100,000. The grant will be used to expand welder training. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $63,028, bringing the total project funding to $163,028.
The grant was awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of ARC was joined by Congressman Bill Johnson and Jason Wilson, director of the governor’s office of Appalachia. The officials were joined by several union officials.
“We’re going to use this to jumpstart our accelerated welder training and we will start after the first of the year our selection process, selecting new members. We will put those new members through that extensive training,” Bobby Cole, Local 577 Business Agent said. “We’ve run this training for about five years. At this point with our own money, we’ve trained about 25 guys and they are making an average income of about $78,000 a year. If you do the math, that’s putting about $2 million dollars into the local economy.”
Chad Smith, a program apprentice with Local 577, told those in attendance about the success of the program and the impact it had on his life.
“Every year in Washington, through the appropriations process, there is a persistent attempt to defund ARC. I keep telling colleagues there, these are the kind of things ARC does so well that changes the lives and improves the quality of life for people that live in our region,” Johnson said. “It is a good day; I’m honored to play a part in it.”
Gohl told those in attendance that he believes Appalachia is the next big investment opportunity in America.
“In order for the region to reach its potential, it’s critical to have a competitive and capable workforce. The key to a capable workforce is partnerships like this one,” Gohl said.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT