CUMBERLAND, Md. (WDVM) — These are busy times for the Appalachian Regional Commission, the federal entity which partners with 13 states on economic development. West Virginia and the western Maryland region are in the commission’s focus.
It started as an anti-poverty agency decades ago, a partnership with 13 states. West Virginia is the only state entirely within the ARC. Three western Maryland counties are Washington, Allegany and Garrett. Chandler Sagal is director of development and grants for western Maryland and is focused on “public and private partnerships to bring new and developing industries into the state.”
Interstate 68 is a major part of attracting new industry to the region, part of an economic growth strategy to create jobs, improve infrastructure like roads and bridges and water systems, enhance broadband networks and build on educational assets like Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland.
“When people get the opportunity, and they realize infrastructure has come, new industries are booming in this part of the state, they’ll realize, ‘Hey this is a great place, a great affordable place to raise my family, live healthily and happily and still earn a great living,” said Sagal.
All told, there are 420 counties that partner with the ARC. Delegate Mike McKay serves in the Maryland General Assembly and has been an active supporter of the commission’s work in the region, serving such important communities as Cumberland, Hancock and Clear Spring.
“I think that the ARC having representation from this part of Maryland really gets our name out there and lets them know that we’re here and we’re ready to create those partnerships and those new innovative ideas,” said Sagal.
Just this week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was named co-chair of the commission, succeeding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. The last time a Maryland governor served in this role was 1984, Governor Harry Hughes had the honor.
Later this month, Sagal will be meeting with his counterparts from other states about future ARC initiatives. Meanwhile, another familiar name on the national political scene has an important role with the commission — Gayle Manchin, the wife of West Virginia’s U.S. Senator — was recently appointed by the Biden administration to work with Governor Hogan starting at the new calendar year.