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September 17, 2023 | Tom Ballard

FoundersForge secures grant to help entrepreneurs recovering from substance abuse

The Johnson City-based supporter of entrepreneurs will use the funds to launch a "Substance Use Disorder and Recovery to Entrepreneurship Ecosystem" in the Northeast Tennessee region.

FoundersForge has been awarded $46,377 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to build a plan for a “Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Recovery to Entrepreneurship Ecosystem” in the Northeast Tennessee region.

The award is part of a recently announced nearly $14 million funding package through ARC’s Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative, which addresses the region’s substance use disorder crisis with investments that strengthen services in the recovery ecosystem and helps facilitate workforce entry and re-entry.

“Our team is excited to start working on our INSPIRE initiative,” said David Nelson, Executive Director of the Johnson City-based organization that is focused on supporting what it characterizes as “underdog entrepreneurs” during their start-up journeys. “Many people in our region may only be able to find work through creating their own business after recovery. Our work in building a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem is ready to be leveraged to fill this need.”

Nelson said FoundersForge will be reaching out to people in the region and beyond to establish partnerships that help move the needle forward with recovery-to-work. To facilitate those collaborations, he is inviting individuals and organizations currently involved in SUD-Recovery and workforce development to contact FoundersForge at to get connected.

“I commend FoundersForge for their work supporting the recovery ecosystem in Appalachian Tennessee,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “They are integral to bringing our INSPIRE projects to life. FoundersForge is a great asset in our efforts to address the region’s substance use disorder crisis, and I look forward to seeing how they will help build a strong recovery ecosystem and a stronger workforce for the opportunities of tomorrow.”

Since INSPIRE was established in April 2021, ARC has invested nearly $42 million in 126 projects across 349 Appalachian counties. The recently announced $14 million package for Fiscal Year 2023 is projected to improve 2,178 businesses and prepare 9,772 individuals for new opportunities in the workforce.

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