ARC gives $1.5M in grants to support exporters

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Appalachian states are getting $1.5 million in grants to support small businesses that export products, with a focus on food.

The Global Appalachia Initiative announced Monday is designed to help companies use technology and training in marketing to reach international customers. ARC officials say it could help generate $150 million in sales over three years.

The grants are going to state development or commerce offices in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. In Kentucky, the grant goes to the University of Kentucky Research Foundation. South Carolina's $300,000 grant - the largest of the 13 - goes to its Export Consortium.

ARC says companies that export grow faster and pay higher wages than those that don't.

Targeted West Virginia companies include condiment producer Uncle Bunk's in Sistersville, honey producer ThistleDew Farms in Proctor, pizza sauce producer Oliverio's Italian Style Peppers in Clarksburg, and Tasty Blend Foods Inc., which makes cornbread and biscuit mixes in Fraziers Bottom.

All are "fairly unique, small operations, created by families and sold through family businesses," said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, who sampled some of the goods at the Capitol Market.

"The folks that do this are very creative, they have a lot of energy, and they're always looking to expand their markets," he said. "It's a group of specialty foods that aren't mass marketed, for the most part."

Gohl said a company in Irondale, Ala., has already proven the idea: Sales of Pucker Powder, a finely granulated candy, increased dramatically after the owners began exporting.

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