The work of the Appalachian Council of Governments in Greenville goes on mostly behind the scenes. The organization’s work, however, is an important resource for six Upstate counties — Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg.
“I like to say we are the nerds in the back of the room,” said Chip Bentley, deputy director of the Appalachian Council of Governments. “We’re not the ones holding the ribbon cuttings or holding a shovel. Our work is behind the scenes.”
Last year the organization facilitated nearly $17 million in grants and services in the counties it represents. Examples of the work include administering the Anderson HOME Consortium that resulted in the rehabilitation of 10 homes; preparing an environmental review that was required by the National Park Service for two properties in Greenville County, and assisting the city of Woodruff in obtaining grants for its downtown streetscape project.
When asked how this year’s achievements compare prior years, Chip Bentley, the organization’s deputy director, said, “We don’t expect things to change much from year to year.”
“What we do is mostly dictated by the state,” he said.
But one element of the organization that is seeing changes is the Area Agency on Aging. Last year the Appalachian Council of Governments, through that agency, provided $4.8 million in services to seniors in the region. Bentley expects demand for those services to increase as the senior population increases.
In 2017, the Area Agency on Aging spending for senior services in the Upstate included:
- $911,150 in Anderson County
- $494,319 in Cherokee County
- $1,684,509 in Greenville County
- $399,180 in Oconee County
- $584,537 in Pickens County
- $754,372 in Spartanburg County
The Area Agency on Aging work includes home-delivered meals, congregate meals, transportation, health promotion, homemaker services, legal assistance, minor home repair, family caregiver support and education.
Providing grant assistance also keeps the Appalachian Council of Governments busy, Bentley said. Last year the organization helped administer and prepare grants that awarded more than $3.7 million in the region it serves.
“There are always lots of requests for grants,” Bentley said. “Smaller municipalities tend to need grant assistance for sewer or water projects, or streetscapes. Our strength is in helping small municipalities. We offer grant service to local governments who don’t have a lot of professionals to do the work.”
Among the grants awarded in 2017 were:
Anderson County: More than $1 million for projects that included $500,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission Grant program to construct a larger modern airport terminal at the Anderson Regional Airport. Other grants will improve streetscaping for municipalities like Iva and Pendleton, upgrade sewer systems for municipalities like Belton, Pendleton and Williamston, and extend water lines for the Powdersville Water District.
Cherokee County: A $480,500 grant from the Rural Infrastructure Authority to make sewer improvements in the town of Blacksburg. The organization also administered an Appalachian Regional Commission grant to construct sewer lines along S.C. Highway 5 in Blacksburg, as well as a community development block grant to fund the Tank Branch Neighborhood Revitalization Project and an ARC grant to fund a park and amphitheater project in Gaffney.
Greenville County: A $500,000 grant for the Greer Commission of Public Works to extend sewer in the Bent Creek area.
Oconee County: Continue to administer community development block grant funding for the Hampton Street sewer upgrade project in Westminster and a block grant-funded water system improvement project in the Schroeder Street/ Burns Mill Road area of West Union.
Pickens County: A $580,000 community development block grant for the city of Easley for Phase IV of the West End sewer project and a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant for the city of Clemson to make improvements to the wastewater treatment plant on Cochran Road.
The Appalachian Council of Governments also has an economic development arm, which, in 2017, facilitated local economic developers in the retainment and recruitment of 32 existing companies and 16 new companies. The announcements generated more than $1.4 billion in capital investment and 5,438 new jobs, according to the organization’s annual report.