Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Devleopment, U.S. Economic and Development Administration
Making investments in our workforce and building out critical business infrastructure are key elements of any strategy to ensure our nations’ future economic growth. And when these investments are matched locally and amplify existing local and regional technological assets and expertise, they are doubly effective.
I saw evidence of this today and yesterday when I travelled to Kentucky and Tennessee to announce three new EDA investments in these states. I was accompanied by Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission , which is doing impressive work that is critical to the competitiveness of this region.
In Barbourville, Kentucky this morning, I was honored to participate in Union College’s opening convocation where I announce a $1.5 million EDA disaster assistance grant  that will help Knox County and the surrounding region rebound and diversify in the wake of 2011 flooding and tornadoes. Specifically, the grant will support the region’s workers and its growing health-care sector by helping to renovate the former Knox County hospital building on the college’s campus to serve as the new Department of Nursing and Health Sciences.
As U.S. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said, “When our rural communities face natural disasters, they need financial support to rebuild, which secures the hope of a full recovery…I commend the EDA for supporting these efforts in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.”
This EDA grants will ensure a full recovery for the region by helping them prepare for a greater healthcare workforce. The grant adds to the more than $42 million in EDA investments that have gone to projects in Kentucky since 2009, supporting the creation of 6,000 new jobs in the state.
In Maryville, Tennessee, yesterday I met with local officials and announced a $1.4 million EDA investment that will fund roadway improvements to support the needs of advanced manufacturers, such as ProNova Solutions, that are choosing to locate in this area. ProNova develops proton therapy systems for treating cancer patients. Their decision to locate in Maryville was no doubt prompted by its proximity to Tennessee’s Innovation Valley. The valley boasts a technology innovation cluster anchored by scientific hubs in the University of Tennessee and The Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Later in the day I was in Loudon, Tennessee, where I announced a $1.5 million EDA investment that will pay for new electrical service at the Sugarlimb Industrial Park. The expanded power capacity at the park has already attracted Del Conca USA, an Italian manufacturer of ceramic tiles, to build a new American production facility here. This will, according to grantee estimates, create 175 new jobs in Loudon.
These two investments  build on the more than $44 million EDA has invested in Tennessee since 2009, leading to the creation of more than 12,400 new jobs.
All three of these investments—by promoting workforce training and helping create environments that attract new businesses and advanced manufacturers—support long-term regional economic growth and, equally important, help give middle class Americans the skills and opportunities they need to obtain well-paying jobs.