Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs will receive a $750,000 POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to continue its Social Enterprise Ecosystem (SEE) Appalachia program to foster growth in coal-impacted communities in southeastern Ohio and West Virginia.
ARC POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grants are a congressionally-funded initiative to assist communities affected by the decline of the coal industry. ARC first funded SEE’s pilot program last year, and the renewed funding will ensure its continuation and expansion for the next two years.
“Today’s announcement is continued support for the work already underway to create new opportunities for those living in communities hardest hit by changes in the coal industry,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “These grants are a commitment to long-term diversification and economic growth in Appalachia.”
“The Social Enterprise Ecosystem and the outreach being done by the Voinovich School are tremendously important for our community and our region, and we are proud to have that work recognized with continued funding,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “It is efforts like this that impact Ohio University’s contributions to the state and regional economy each year.”
SEE assists social enterprises, for-profits or non-profits with a social mission that also achieve revenue, to enhance their businesses and grow their institutions through professional advisory services and capital access through grants and impact investment. SEE also aids established enterprises in measurement of their social impact. Social enterprises comprise almost 6 percent of the national GDP and 10 percent of the workforce, according to SEE Director Faith Knutsen. Among SEE’s clients are businesses and organizations dedicated to improving solar energy access, empowering women through arts education, and using investments to strengthen local economies.
“Our team is delighted, on behalf of our clients, that the ARC is able to continue to support services to the social enterprise sector,” Knutsen said. “We hope to continue enabling strong enterprise models, compelling impact investment deal structures and meaningful measurements of the ongoing and vital impact of social enterprise on our regional communities.”
In its first year, the SEE program helped 63 clients to earn more than $4.7 million and create 47 new jobs and 13 new businesses.
With its expansion funded by the ARC grant, SEE plans to serve over 30 communities in Ohio and West Virginia. It’s projected that in the next two years, the program will benefit up to 85 clients, creating 17 new businesses and 38 jobs for a gain of at least $6 million.
Key partners in SEE are the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and Rural Action.
“This is great news for Ohio University,” said U.S. Senator Rob Portman in a release from his office. “I’m excited that this grant will help support the university’s efforts to cultivate economic diversity, enhance job training and re-employment opportunities, create jobs in existing or new industries, and attract new sources of investment in Appalachian communities.”