The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) recently awarded $1.5 million to expand entrepreneurial training and partnerships with substance abuse recovery networks across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia through the new “LIGHTS Inclusive” initiative.
Led by Shawnee State University in partnership with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, the OHIO Innovation Center and Ohio University Southern, the project builds on the success of a previous award to the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) Regional Innovation Network.
The expanded project is expected to create 133 jobs and 49 new businesses, improving economic opportunities in 38 communities.
“The expansion of the LIGHTS project is an absolute win for our region,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said about the collaboration. “Building off of the success of the original programming, the new funding will enable the partnership to work together and use these proven tools to impact substance abuse recovery networks throughout the areas that need the assistance the most.”
As of July 2019, LIGHTS and its regional partners have assisted 206 startups and small business clients. Those businesses currently employ 88 people with total annualized wages of $2.5 million. The businesses have also achieved $59.8 million in revenue and have attracted $37.8 million in private investment.
“Expanding economic development in Ohio and the region, while focusing on the effects of substance abuse on this growth, builds off of the Voinovich School’s extensive, long-term work in both entrepreneurship and community-based prevention,” Voinovich School Dean Mark Weinberg said.
Led by Shawnee State University, as part of the LIGHTS Regional Innovation Network, Ohio University is partnering with ACEnet, Hocking College, Building Bridges to Careers Epicenter, ReUse Industries Athens Makerspace, and Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Marshall University on the project.
“Working with entrepreneurs and people in long-term recovery are two important steps in advancing our community economically,” said Nicole Pennington, dean of Ohio University Southern and interim executive dean for regional higher education. Pennington said the new business incubator in Lawrence County, the Southern Launch, is part of this effort.
“The Southern Launch is inclusive and part of this growing ecosystem,” said Sarah Diamond Burroway, director of Southern’s Workforce Success Initiative.
This award was one of 54 investments totaling $44.4 million via ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, a Congressionally-funded opportunity targeting federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.
“POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting coal-impacted communities in the Appalachian Region as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric. Projects like this help ensure a prosperous future for Appalachia,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.