(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt Governor Jon Husted, and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik today announced the first major development projects that will move forward with support from Ohio’s $500 million Appalachian Community Grant Program.
The DeWine-Husted Administration, in partnership with the Ohio General Assembly, created the grant program last year to support local initiatives to revitalize downtown districts, enhance quality of life, and rebuild the economies of Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties.
A total of $50 million in development grants will be awarded in the program’s first round to launch four transformational projects impacting communities in Athens, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Mahoning, Meigs, and Perry counties.
“The projects we’re announcing today are just the beginning of the long-term, impactful change that’s in store for Ohio’s 32-county Appalachian region,” said Governor DeWine. “There is so much potential in Appalachia Ohio, and this historic $500 million investment will help open new doors to growth, innovation, and opportunity for those living here.”
“With today’s announcement, new doors are opening in Appalachian Ohio, creating a new generation of opportunities,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “This funding will allow these communities to think bigger and expand the scope of their local economy, making their communities more attractive to live, work and invest.”
The following projects were selected due to their “shovel-ready” status, and each project will start construction/implementation within the next 90 days.
The Utica Shale Academy of Ohio will increase access to workforce training for at-risk, low-income young adults, individuals, and families impacted by substance use disorders in Columbiana, Carroll, Jefferson, and Mahoning counties.
With an Appalachian Community Grant of up to $2,356,417, Utica Shale will create the Connecting Communities Through Workforce Training project, which will provide residents with a career pathway for in-demand jobs that allow them to earn a sustainable living wage. The project will expand workforce training services at three strategically-placed training centers that will reskill and upskill individuals to attract and retain skilled labor. The training will focus on in-demand jobs like heavy equipment operation, welding, industrial maintenance, robotics, 3D printing, broadband infrastructure, and diesel mechanics. Participants will also have access to community health workers to assist with resources to improve health.
The City of Athens will receive an Appalachian
Community Grant of up to $17,674,641 to revitalize 80,000 square feet of downtown space with the rehabilitation of six historic buildings in Coshocton, Logan, Somerset, and Athens. The buildings include the Athens Armory, Coshocton Collaborative, Somerset Builders Club, Logan Theater and Community Arts Center, Hocking Hills Children’s Museum, and Hocking Hills Chamber.
The At Work in Appalachia project will also deliver collaborative regional programming through a series of public/private partnerships, including rentable coworking space, business incubation centers, community gathering space for arts, culture, and technology programs, and the creation and expansion of mental health services. The project will expand existing collaborations and incentivize new partnerships that create visible, lasting impact, accelerate downtown revitalization across the four-county region, and attract business and visitors to downtowns.
The Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program will address social determinants of health challenges in Athens, Glouster, Nelsonville, Gallipolis, and Middleport by establishing a mental health drop-in center and advocacy trauma center and expanding four New Leaf Recovery Villages.
Turning Over a New Leaf for Appalachia Families Through Wealth, Health, and Technology will be funded through an Appalachia Community Grant of up to $25,793,806. The program will offer shelter and transitional housing services, healthy food support, childcare, and case management. The project will also include the construction of 3D-printed affordable housing, the renovation of downtown buildings and infrastructure to increase walkability, and the establishment of workforce development programs focused on transitional job programs.
The Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia will receive an Appalachia Community Grant of up to $4,175,136 for the Southeast Ohio Nature, Heritage, and Art Sustainable Tourism Anchor Development to Transform the Appalachian Ohio Economy project.
The project will impact Athens, Buchtel, Nelsonville, Chauncey, Middleport, and Jackson by focusing on the development of tourism assets and essential connectivity to workforce development. The project will focus on completing the trails and visitor facilities for the Baileys Trail System and will offer lodging and connectivity with neighboring communities. The project includes essential workforce training for emergency rescue first responders, land managers, and hospitality staff and will include expanded healthcare access in Athens and Meigs counties.
“These transformational projects will help change the trajectory for families across Appalachia,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development. “With improved infrastructure and access to healthcare and workforce training, these families will be able to live out their dreams in their own communities.”
The Appalachian Community Grant Program is administered by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia within the Ohio Department of Development and is part of the DeWine-Husted Administration’s “Ohio BUILDS – Small Communities, Big Impact – A Plan for Appalachia,” which focuses on enhancing the workforce in Ohio’s Appalachian region and improving the area’s infrastructure and healthcare. The program was created with the support of the 134th Ohio General Assembly and funded as part of House Bill 377.
In addition to the four aforementioned grants, 21 organizations will receive $7,664,179 in technical assistance grants to cover costs associated with the planning and design of transformational projects that could be funded for development through future rounds of the Appalachian Community Grant Program. Technical assistance grants may be used to defray costs associated with planning, researching, and writing development proposals for a project or group of projects. The Ohio Department of Development has also procured planners to assist Ohio’s Appalachian communities with the creation of comprehensive plans and applications for the grant program.
The application period for the next round of development funding through the Appalachian Community Grant Program is expected to open in November 2023. Guidelines for the grant program were developed in coordination with members of the legislature and numerous stakeholders. Full program guidelines are available at development.ohio.gov/AppalachianCommunityGrant.