RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — On Wednesday morning, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced that Appalachia’s 13 governors elected Gov. Ralph Northam to serve as ARC’s states’ co-chair for 2021.
According to a statement released by Northam’s office on Wednesday, Feb. 3, the states’ co-chair is elected on an annual basis by the governors, works directly with the federal co-chair to invest in economic growth and development across the 13-state Appalachian region, and hosts ARC’s Annual Summit.
“It’s an honor to be elected to this role, and I look forward to working with leaders across the Appalachian region to advance our shared priorities and support the region’s needs,” said Northam. “Appalachia is a vital part of Virginia, and America, with a unique history and culture, beautiful landscapes, and resilient people. I am eager to work with the ARC to strengthen Appalachian communities, improving their economic health and livelihood through investments in critical infrastructure like broadband, and services like health care, especially in the fight against opioid addiction. By exchanging new ideas, from both sides of the aisle, we can bring high quality jobs and economic opportunity throughout the Appalachian region.”
Officials say Northam is ARC’s 68th states’ co-chair — succeeding the 2020 co-chair, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — as well as the fifth Virginia governor to hold the position and the first retired Army officer to serve in role in 24 years.
“I am proud to know that Governor Northam will serve as the 2021 states’ co-chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission,” said U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, the former governor of the Commonwealth and the last ARC Co-Chair from Virginia. “I know firsthand the invaluable role that ARC plays in the success of Appalachian Virginia and the region as a whole. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Northam and ARC to support Appalachian communities, especially as we work to overcome the health and economic toll of COVID-19 crisis.”
ARC’s 420 counties stretch from northern Mississippi to the Southern Tier of New York, but they also include 25 counties and eight cities in Virginia, the governor’s office says.
Meanwhile, Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) reportedly works with localities, planning district commissions, and stakeholders in the Appalachian region to help develop strategic projects, which are then evaluated by DHCD and the governor before being recommended to the federal commission for approval.
“I am pleased to welcome Governor Northam as ARC’s 2021 States’ Co-Chair,” said ARC Executive Director Brandon McBride. “On behalf of the Commission, I want to thank Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for serving in this role in 2020. ARC’s federal-state partnership is critical to the fulfillment of our important mission, and I look forward to working with Governor Northam, and all Appalachian state governors, to continue strengthening the region.”