EDA awards Voinovich School $144K in funding to impact regional economic development

Austin Ambrose
November 8, 2016

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently awarded Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs $144,000 to advance regional economic development, while identifying rising industries in Appalachia to retrain workers in declining industries — such as coal mining — to fill those jobs.

The School received $75,000 in five-year renewal funding for the EDA University Center program and new grant dollars in the amount of $69,000 for the Ohio University Appalachian Ohio Skillshed Analysis. Both grants are also matched with Ohio University funding.

The new Skillshed grant will be used to identify emerging occupations in the Appalachian region and assess the skill gap from declining industries, specifically coal. Training programs can then be implemented to retrain workers for upcoming occupations as the demand for skills shifts.

“We will complete this analysis in four to five labor sheds, which are geographical regions where people live and work,” Dr. Jason Jolley, Assistant Professor of Economic Development, said. “Our particular focus will be on areas where the coal industry is already declining, so we can begin to act on emerging opportunities in those areas.”

The EDA University Centers are a partnership between the federal government and academia to provide resources to the economic development community. The Voinovich School was established as a U.S. Department of Commerce EDA University Center in 1996. The Center is a joint project with Bowling Green State University; the two institutions work collectively to serve 59 rural Ohio counties: 32 Appalachian counties and 27 counties in northwestern Ohio.

“EDA’s University Center program marshals the resources located within colleges and universities to support economic development strategies in regions in chronic and acute economic distress,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The investments announced today will allow these higher education institutions to build the public-private partnerships that are so vital to helping America stay innovative and competitive in the 21st century.”

The EDA funding supports the Voinovich School’s offerings of business assistance services, applied research initiatives, and an annual State of the Region Conference. Through partnerships and collaboration with regional economic development centers and agencies, the EDA University Center at the Voinovich School positions the region for economic growth.

For the past five years, the State of the Region Conferences have brought together businesses and community leaders to discuss the state of the region. Past themes have included, “Exploring our Business Ecosystem,” “Manufacturing Workforce: Building Capacity,” and “Manufacturing in Appalachia: Opportunities Abound.”

“We look forward and continue to work with our regional partners. We really see this is a key source of collaboration and resource for the region,” Jolley said.