Conference convenes to prepare for $500M investment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

WAVERLY — Elected officials and economic development professionals from the 32 Appalachian Ohio counties met at Shawnee Lodge and Conference Center in Scioto County for the second annual Appalachia Forward Conference on Oct. 5.

The conference was organized by the Ohio University Voinovich School of Public Leadership and provided an opportunity to bring people together to discuss transformative change and collaborate on multi-jurisdictional project ideas that transcend the boundaries of counties, cities and villages in preparation for the OhioBuilds Appalachian Community Grant Program, a historic $500 million dollar investment by the DeWine administration in the Appalachian Ohio region.

The funds for the investment came from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed by Congressional Democrats in 2021 and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

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The program is expected to begin accepting applications mid-fall.

The keynote opening address was delivered by Ohio Director of Development Lydia Mihalik, followed by John Carey, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia.

“The conference presentations were excellent, providing great ideas for the audience members to consider for their communities. The Appalachia Community Grant Program guidelines and application are not yet available, but we heard a good summation of what is going to be expected in an application by Julia Hinten of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia,” John Hemmings, OVRDC executive director, said.

This is the second year for the conference, organized by Amista Lipot, Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership Director of External Relations and the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Partnership for Progress, which serves mayors and city managers in 18 counties, representing nearly 120 communities and a population of almost 800,000.

The Appalachia Forward Conference is also an opportunity for the Local Development Districts (LDDs) to share program highlights, project updates and innovative projects and collaborations that are happening in their regions.

The four LDDs work closely together and include the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC), serving 12 counties in the southern and south-central part of the state; Buckeye Hill Regional Development Commission in the southeastern region; OMEGA – Ohio Mideastern Governments Association for counties along the Ohio/Pennsylvania border; and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments in the most northern counties of Appalachian Ohio.