Voinovich School awarded $1.6M EDA grant to boost community economic development
Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs will receive $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to fund a new program to assist southeastern Ohio communities affected by the decline of the coal industry.
The grant, funded by the EDA’s 2018 Assistance to Coal Communities program, was awarded to a partnership between the Voinovich School and the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) for the development and operation of the new Building Opportunities Beyond Coal Acceleration Transition (BOBCAT) Network project. The BOBCAT Network is a regional development project that will promote entrepreneurship, support economic diversification, and identify infrastructure and workforce needs in Southeast Ohio.
“One of Ohio University’s strategic goals is to serve as a positive catalyst of economic and quality of life change for Appalachia, the region and the state,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “The BOBCAT Network is an excellent opportunity to help the region build on new economic strengths.”
The BOBCAT Network targets the entire 12-county OVRDC region with a particular focus on Adams, Scioto and Lawrence counties. In Adams County, two coal-powered Dayton Power and Light facilities are closing, eliminating an estimated 1,131 jobs in the region and costing local governments and schools $8.5 million in lost tax revenue. The BOBCAT Network will aim to bring new industry to the area and ensure social sector needs are met.
“The BOBCAT Network represents the best in regional collaboration,” Dr. Jason Jolley, associate professor of rural economic development and BOBCAT Network project lead, said. “Regional campus leadership, economic development districts, and support from local governments were all key in putting together a successful project plan.”
Many companies used the ports on the Ohio River to ship coal or items related to the coal economy. With lower demand for coal and fewer coal-fired power plants, companies in Lawrence and Scioto counties are experiencing declining sales. The BOBCAT Network will work on economic development to overcome the impacts of the declining coal industry in the communities in those counties. Ohio University Southern will partner on the grant to assist with workforce development needs in Lawrence County.
In addition, the Voinovich School will partner with OVRDC to help coordinate the project. The Appalachian New Economic Partnership (ANEP) provided $400,000 to meet the required 20 percent grant match. ANEP is a line item in the state of Ohio budget through the Ohio Department of Higher Education designated to the Voinovich School to fuel regional and state economic growth and social impact.
“OVRDC’s participation in this project was possible through the Voinovich School’s generosity in using Appalachian New Economy Partnership funds to cover our required financial match,” OVRDC Executive Director John Hemmings said. “The match allowed OVRDC to come to the table as a partner and hire coal economy recovery coordinators to implement the planning effort.”