"Mostly anything that has been done of any importance in that area has been done with ARC money," said Mark Middleton, a planner with the Tri-County Council, a Maryland state subsidiary that packages project documents and plans in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties and a Martinsburg, W.Va., district.
In addition, ARC has donated more than $160 million since 1965 to link rural western Maryland to Interstate 68 and other interstate highways, said Duane DeBruyne, ARC public affairs officer.
Washington County holds by far the highest number of ARC-backed Tri-State area projects, according to ARC reports.
Records show since 1965, Berkeley County, W.Va., earned $7,230,553 for 57 total projects, Jefferson County, W.Va., picked up $3,235,719 for 28 projects, Fulton County, Pa., was awarded $505,377 for 10 projects and Morgan County, W.Va., acquired $882,503 for eight projects.
Established in 1965, ARC was appropriated federal funds to uplift sagging economies of Appalachian America, which, according to Congress, included 399 counties and 13 states from the southern tip of New York to the northeast corner of Mississippi, DeBruyne said.
"We work as a partner with the state and with local communities to make Appalachia a full contributing partner to economic development of the United States ... rather than being a drain on the nation," he said.
While Congress debates today whether to keep the federal aid alive, DeBruyne said there are still some pockets in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky that need help.
"Without the ARC money, we probably wouldn't be able to develop that area," said Hancock Town Manager Lou Close, referring to the town's ongoing rail trail revitalization that attracted $170,000 from the commission on July 28.
In one of its biggest ventures ever, Jesse L. White Jr., ARC federal co-chairman, announced in June a three-year, $15 million effort to foster local businesses in Appalachia.
Of this money, ARC has earmarked $243,000 specifically for Washington, Garrett and Allegany county businesses over the next two years.
To discuss the initiative, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., invited White and Tri-County Council officials to Hagerstown on Tuesday.
"I am always pleased to support the ARC, an agency that has proven time and time again to be a real friend to Western Maryland," said Bartlett in a prepared statement.