Ohio University: G. Jason Jolley, Ph.D., Clara Bone, Martin Hohenberger, Brent Lane
Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, John Hemmings
In October 2018, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) funded the Building Opportunities Beyond Coal Accelerating Transition (BOBCAT) Network under the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) program. The BOBCAT Network is a joint project of Ohio University’s George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service (GVS) and the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC). The project was designed to assist the region with economic diversification and transition with decline in the coal economy. Over a three-year period the BOBCAT Network has catalyzed regional collaborations to accelerate the region’s transition out of the coal economy through a potent portfolio of economic development implementation and actionable applied scholarship in entrepreneurial growth, workforce development, industry cluster expansion, opportunity zone enhancement, and infrastructure investment.
The majority of this work took place during the 2020-2021 COVID pandemic, with all the complications which that imposed. These circumstances created challenges that sometimes slowed but never deterred the execution of the BOBCAT Network agenda. More importantly, the collective commitment required to work through such impediments elicited perseverance and innovativeness that refined and strengthened the original BOBCAT Network concept. That process is reflected throughout the results detailed in this report and summarized in this preface. Our goal herein is to not only to describe the tangible and significant accomplishments of the BOBCAT Network, but also to highlight how navigating the COVID pandemic environment enabled the Voinovich School and its partners to enhance the original BOBCAT Network strategy in ways that revealed unanticipated new opportunities for the region and strengthened this regional collaboration to meet its future challenges.