TGCC is playing a critical role in the creation of the I-68 Regional Alliance which has the potential to expand the economic base of the I-68 region and to attract new investment into our economy with the goal of improving the quality of life and creating wealth in our communities. The Alliance is a public/private partnership representing economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, tourism and visitors organizations as well as industry partners. TGCC will serve as the incubator for the Alliance and our Executive Director will work closely with its members to create a system of governance and ways of working that inspire our members to build trust with one another, share important information and commit to a process of collaboration which results in outcomes that are advantageous to both the individual members as well as to the region as a whole.
In 1965, the Appalachian Development Highway System was established by Congress as a necessary step to generate economic development in the rural and terrain-challenged areas of the nation’s 13 Appalachian states. Bourne from a series of visits to this part of the country by John F. Kennedy as he campaigned for the 1960 presidential election, the concept of providing a transportation network within our country’s most impoverished—and under-connected---communities, set the stage for building a system of highways totaling 3,090 miles. Nearly 55 years later, almost 91% of the ADHS has been built, bringing access to markets and building economic prosperity in rural Appalachia. Unfortunately, for the tri-State region served by TGCC, critical sections of the ADHS and its connecting routes, remain uncompleted.
TGCC, founded as a regional organization determined to inspire increased economic development opportunities, adopted the completion of the North/South Appalachian Highway as its signature project in 2008. This transportation corridor envisions US 219 N connecting I-68, near Grantsville, Maryland to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Somerset, Pennsylvania and US 220 S, near Cumberland, Maryland, to Corridor H, near Scherr, West Virginia. Several economic impact studies of this proposed dual-leg corridor have projected the creation of 10,000 permanent jobs and 20,000 construction and construction-related jobs.
Since adopting the completion of the North/South Appalachian Highway as its priority project, significant milestones have been achieved, including—
To date, our efforts to complete the North/South Appalachian Highway have resulted in $500 million investment dollars. As significant as our accomplishments have been, our work is far from done. But, a renewed energy and an expanded network of critical contacts have been developed in the last year. Focusing on the complete build-out of this economic impact project, our Work Group has developed strategic plans for each of the two legs (US 219 N and US 220 S) that leverage opportunities unique to each leg and provide the best options to move the entire project forward.
Participation in our Committees is one of the most important ways members can engage in TGCC’s mission to serve the greater good. The mission of the Education and Workforce Development Committee is to convene key stakeholders across education and business to focus on strategies to develop a competitive and skilled workforce for jobs in demand in the tri-state region. This Committee, chaired by Allegany College of Maryland President, Cynthia Bambara, consists of regional college presidents, county school officials, workforce development specialists and local business representatives from across the region.
We meet 5 to 6 times a year to discuss best practices, share programs of work, and provide updates on grant opportunities, successes and achievements and opportunities for collaboration between the participants, their organizations and their students. We know from our members that these regular meetings provide a unique venue to work collectively and with a more unified approach on solving workforce issues which face all of our communities.
Of notable interest in 2019, were the following achievements from across the tri-state region:
Work Ethic Diploma Program: a partnership between the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce and Garrett County Public Schools. The Work Ethic Diploma Program was created to address the challenges of the business community to find reliable employees with the appropriate essential skills. To qualify for a Work Ethic Diploma, participating Garrett County students must earn a minimum of points in criteria such as Attendance, GPA, Community Service/Internship Project and Teamwork, among others. There is also an optional Drug Free component that will be noted on diplomas for participants meeting that criteria. Students who earn a Work Ethic Diploma benefit by receiving guaranteed job interviews from participating employers as long as they meet the related job qualifications and if hired receive at least a $.50/hour higher starting wage than an employee with the same skill set who has not earned the Work Ethic Diploma. Thirty-two students from Northern and Southern Garrett County High Schools graduated from the 2019 inaugural class with diplomas. Thirty-six local businesses signed commitment forms as partners. This program serves as an inspiration to the region and will continue to be a best practice model moving forward.
Tackling the Opioid Epidemic: A Community Resilience Approach project - Allegany College of Maryland (ACM) announced that the Maryland Opioid Operation Command Center (OOCC) has provided it with a prevention and education grant of $443,274 for this project. The OOCC grant will support evidence based therapeutic and educational services (educational events, workshops and mentorship opportunities) for more than 2,000 individuals in Allegany County and across the state through the ACM Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development. Working closely with local opioid prevention and treatment programs, the Tackling the Opioid Epidemic project utilizes a stress and trauma-relief model developed by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) to build a culture of resilience and a community-wide support system. The project will teach simple but proven tactics that build personal resilience while reducing the stigma associated with addiction. It addresses the physiological and psychological root causes of addiction while introducing non-pharmacological approaches to address pain and chronic physical and mental illness.
SAGE: Students enrolled in West Virginia University Potomac State College’s Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurship (SAGE) program find themselves making apple cider, tapping trees for maple syrup production, cultivating indoor shiitake and oyster mushrooms, managing bees for honey production, and most recently growing lavender for profit. All this in addition to the management of livestock including goats, swine and cattle along with the operation of farming equipment that’s needed to maintain the College’s three farms. SAGE was created to give students a real-life, practical hands-on education and to prepare young farmers with an entrepreneurial mindset in the ever-changing ‘farm-to-table’ landscape. Students learn about biological processes in commodity and specialty crops and livestock, conventional and progressive farming methods and materials, working with natural resources and the environment, and the value of building a sustainable brand and business venture.
Supporting the TGCC vision (To create one region, with one vision, for one future, by convening leaders, cultivating relationships and collaborating for the greater good.) by promoting our regional Energy and Natural Resources.