U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Va., have announced today that the City of Covington, Va., is receiving $100,000 in federal funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to promote the unmanned systems industry in Alleghany County.
The $100,000 grant will be matched with $100,000 in local funds to complete a feasibility study and design, marketing and business plan for the new “Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone,” a business accelerator program and facility to support local enterprises in the drone industry.
According to an announcement from the lawmakers, space for 12 businesses is expected to be available in a city-owned building that has been identified for renovation. In addition, the project is expected to support the creation of three to five new businesses per year.
“This grant will help Alleghany County promote economic growth and create new jobs in the exciting and growing field of unmanned systems,” the senators say in a joint statement. “These federal funds show why it is important to maintain key federal, state, regional, and local partnerships and investments like those supported by ARC, which help our region build a stronger and more diverse economy.”
In addition, training partnerships with Dabney Lancaster Community College will provide entrepreneurs with support to establish and grow businesses, and opportunities for recreational drone usage will be developed through expanded partnerships with the Greenbrier and Homestead Resorts. Existing local drone racing and training events are also expected to expand.
Warner and Kaine note their strong support of ARC, comprising the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. Its mission is to innovate, partner and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia and help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation, they explain.