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Press Release

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $1.4 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds for Wastewater System Upgrades to Spur Business Expansion in Athens, Tennessee

Award is Part of the Department of Commerce’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.4 million grant to the Athens Utility Board, Athens, Tennessee, to upgrade the town’s wastewater treatment plant. This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan and EDA’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment.

The City of Athens is in McMinn County, a region that will lose coal industry-related jobs with the closing of the neighboring TVA Bull Run Coal Fire Plant. The project will provide job diversification to rebound for these job losses through the provision of the wastewater infrastructure capacity needed to service an expanding technology corporation. This EDA grant will be matched with $630,000 in state funds and is expected to create 70 jobs, retain 300 jobs, and generate $70 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

“President Biden and this administration applaud community-led efforts to diversify and grow regional economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will provide the wastewater treatment capacity necessary for a major employer to expand operations in Athens and create new jobs in the community.”

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support Athens as they work to grow the region’s economy,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “Expanding the technology sector’s presence in the region will create new opportunity in the region as they work to diversify their economy.”

This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southeast Tennessee Development District (SETD). EDA funds SETD to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.

This project is funded under EDA’s American Rescue Plan Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which makes $500 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance grants available to American communities. The Economic Adjustment Assistance program is EDA’s most flexible program, and grants made under this program will help hundreds of communities across the nation plan, build, innovate, and put people back to work through construction or non-construction projects designed to meet local needs.

EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment allocates $300 million of EDA’s $3 billion American Rescue Plan appropriation to support coal communities as they recover from the pandemic and to help them create new jobs and opportunities, including through the creation or expansion of a new industry sector. Specifically, EDA has dedicated $100 million of its Build Back Better Regional Challenge funds and $200 million of its Economic Adjustment Assistance funds to directly support coal communities.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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