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Remarks at a Meeting To Consider the Economic Problems of the Appalachian Region.

April 09, 1963

I AM glad to meet today with members of my Cabinet and heads of independent agencies who administer programs related to the economic development of the Appalachian region, as well as with Governors representing the Appalachian States.

The economic distress of the Appalachian region has been a matter of serious concern to this administration. Our primary goals have been to reduce immediate distress and to build a solid economic base on which the region could prosper. The food surplus program was expanded and the food stamp plan in the Appalachian region extended.

The Area Redevelopment Act has already resulted in approved projects amounting to more than $19 million in this area, accounting for 15,000 jobs, and we expect this program to create 85,000 more jobs in this area in the next 2 years. Over 4,500 persons have already been retrained for new jobs under the Area Redevelopment Act--others have been or are being retrained under the Manpower Development and Training Act.

Under the accelerated public works program projects amounting to more than $60 million in the Appalachian region have been approved, with more than 100,000 man-months of employment. If Congress appropriates the additional $500 million we have requested for this program, many additional men can be put to work in this region.

Our regular programs continue to provide great help to the economy of the Appalachian region. The Corps of Engineers has under construction in this region projects costing $167 million; the Soil Conservation Service, $28 million. TVA's program in the Appalachian counties totals $215 million. The Housing and Home Finance Agency has outstanding over $133 million in loans and almost $4 million in planning advances. The Federal portion of highway construction under way in the Appalachian region is valued at $659 million. Total Federal public works amount to more than a billion dollars.

One reason why all these programs are so badly needed in the Appalachian region is because it is an area which has been hard hit by unemployment. With only 5 percent of the labor force, it has over 11 percent of our unemployment. Current unemployment averages 12.5 percent, more than twice the national average. Of all the Nation's redevelopment areas eligible for assistance under the Area Redevelopment Act, the Appalachian region accounts for 35 percent of the unemployment.

The economy of the Appalachian region has relied too long and too heavily on extractive industries supporting small, isolated communities. It has a hard core of depression and misery where jobs are still being lost at a rate so rapid that even if we do a lot better than we are now doing, we can't catch up. We have to run much faster simply to maintain the present unsatisfactory job level.

Yet, the Appalachian region is an area rich in potential. Its people are hard-working, intelligent, resourceful, and capable of responding successfully to education and training. They are loyal to their homes, to their families, to their States, and to their country.

The Appalachian region is well endowed with potential water, mineral, forest, and scenic resources. I am certain you share my conviction that this region, properly developed and assisted by the Federal Government, can make a great contribution to the Nation's well-being. To achieve this objective, I suggest the following program:

1. I am directing every department head and agency head responsible for programs which can properly contribute to the economic development of the Appalachian region to review present programs and to make appropriate changes under present authorities and budgets in order to give greater assistance to the economic development of the Appalachian region. Appropriate special consideration should be given this area in developing proposals for the fiscal year 1965 budget, on which work will begin in the agencies within the next few months. Each agency head should designate an individual to be responsible for seeing to it that these things are accomplished and to submit a progress report by May 15, 1963.

2. I propose the establishment within the Department of Commerce of a Joint Federal-State Committee on the Appalachian Region under the chairmanship of the Under Secretary of Commerce. It should consist of members representing each of the Federal agencies concerned and each of the States. As its first job, I would expect this committee to prepare for this year, a comprehensive program for the economic development of the Appalachian region.

I expect that program to consist of plans for improving facilities for all forms of passenger and freight transportation in the region, expansion of facilities for education, research and training, development of water, minerals and forest resources, and establishing expanded opportunities for the attraction of tourists and other visitors to the region.

3. I have directed the Area Redevelopment Administrator to work closely with State officials and university heads in the Appalachian region to establish an Appalachian Institute as a center for research and training in connection with the long-run needs for economic development of the Appalachian region.

The actions that have been taken thus far, the new programs that have been enacted, and the projects under way are of course all moving in the right direction. In addition, we will continue our efforts--on the legislative as well as executive level--to strengthen the economic growth rate of the Nation and especially those sections of the country such as the Appalachian region which require special attention. Our tax proposals will, if enacted, be of significant assistance as will passage of the administration's proposed Youth Employment Act.

The most important key to forward movement is getting started. We have done that--and I believe with a great deal of effort on all sides. Now we must define our objectives more clearly and increase the momentum. I am confident that we can and will do so.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House at a joint meeting of the Area Redevelopment Administration Advisory Policy Board and the Conference of Appalachian Governors.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at a Meeting To Consider the Economic Problems of the Appalachian Region. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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