ARC Awards Nearly $7 Million For Projects in Appalachian Ohio

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ATHENS, Ohio — Projects in areas including The Plains, Gallipolis and Marietta are among those receiving nearly $7 million to help advance economic development in a region dealing with a changing economy.

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced the $6,708,794 as part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative Tuesday.

“The downturn of the coal market has been devastating to Appalachian communities, especially those that relied on coal extraction and related supply chains for generations,” ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas wrote in a press release. “POWER grants are playing a critical role in supporting these communities as they diversify economies, invest in growth-oriented infrastructure, train a next-generation workforce, and ingrain resiliency and hope into their local fabric.”

Southeast Ohio Broadband Backbone Project

A grant of $2.5 million goes to the Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative in Gallipolis for the Southeast Ohio Broadband Backbone project. It will fund the installation of 168 miles of fiber to create a broadband network reaching unserved and underserved areas in six counties in southeast Ohio that have been adversely affected by the decline in the coal economy: Athens, Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, and Vinton.

The fiber installation will optimize a $19.8 million distribution system construction project.

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative will partner with two internet service providers to economically deliver high-speed internet to rural homes, businesses, farms, ranches, and community facilities such as first responders, health care sites, and schools that are currently underserved.

The fiber backbone will serve 1,988 households and 70 businesses.

The Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative is matching ARC funds with $1.1 million in private investment.

LIGHTS Inclusive Project

A grant of $1,496,585 was awarded to Shawnee State University in Portsmouth for the LIGHTS Inclusive (LIGHTS-INC) project.

The project will build on the success of a previous POWER award, Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability (LIGHTS) to include substance use recovery support as part of its entrepreneurial training program.

Shawnee State plans to partner with existing recovery networks in 26 counties across West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

The initiative is expected to create 133 jobs and 49 new businesses; leverage more $1.6 million in private investment; and improve economic opportunities in 38

Partners include Hocking College, Ohio University, the Washington County (OH) Career Center, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Marshall University.

Asset-based Entrepreneurship: Trails, Towns, and Tourism in the Appalachian Ohio Economy Project.

Rural Action Inc. in The Plains received $1,235,727 for the Asset-based Entrepreneurship: Trails, Towns, and Tourism in the Appalachian Ohio Economy project.

“The project will help diversify and restructure the regional economy by investing in an emergent tourism sector that celebrates Appalachian Ohio’s natural, cultural, and entrepreneurial assets,” the press release stated.

It consists of two major components: 1) construction of 31 miles of the Bailey’s Trail in the Wayne National Forest and 2) an integrated package of activities to take economic advantage of the trail, such as collaborative marketing, entrepreneurial training and support, trail town place-making, and workforce development.

When complete, the 88-mile mountain bike trail system will attract 181,000 visitors annually, resulting in $20 million of increased spending.

The project will lead to the creation of 25 new tourism-related business and the expansion of 50 existing business, the creation or retention of 190 jobs, and $5.7 million in leveraged investment.

Additional funding is provided by the National Forest Foundation, a Community Development Block Grant from the State of Ohio, and the Sugar Bush Foundation.

Tri-State Gateway to Growth Training Center

A grant of $836,332 was awarded to Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville for the Tri-State Gateway to Growth Training Center.

The project will establish a training center to serve a 12-county region in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

The new training center plans to educate a competitive workforce for this region in advanced manufacturing including welding, machining, electronics,
pneumatics, hydraulics, and industrial maintenance, logistics, and energy industries.

The area served by the new center has experienced declines in coal mining employment as well as the closure of a coal-fired power plant, according to the ARC.

Over the three-year grant period at least 650 workers/trainees and 120 students will obtain new positions or enhance their current ones, and six businesses will be improved by the training model.

Robotics & Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative

Washington State Community College in Marietta received $618,150 for the Robotics & Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (RAMTEC).

The project will expand RAMTEC — a training and workforce development program designed to educate workers in advanced manufacturing, automation, and robotics, as well as CNC machining, welding, and industrial maintenance — to the southern portion of Appalachian Ohio, the only region in the state currently not benefiting from it.

This proven instructional model includes industry-led educational programming designed to deliver in-demand credentialed training. The training from this program will bolster a workforce that has been adversely affected by the decline in the coal industry.

The project will serve Monroe, Morgan, Noble, and Washington Counties in Ohio and Wood County in West Virginia.

At least 70 workers and trainees (including approximately 20 dislocated and 50 incumbent workers) and 630 students will participate in training activities, and at least six businesses will be improved.

Trumbull County Broadband Feasibility Study

The Trumbull County Planning Commission in Warren will use a $27,500 grant for the Trumbull County Broadband Feasibility Study.

The study will create the road map for the implementation of a fiber network throughout Trumbull County.

It will perform a market analysis of adoption rates, competition, and pricing; conduct a needs assessment for area businesses, schools, hospitals, and other anchor institutions; review current trends in telecommunications technologies; and develop a framework for a structure to govern the fiber network as a publicly owned and operated utility.

Broadband Feasibility Study

Washington Electric Cooperative, In. (WECI) in Marietta received $24,500 for a Broadband Feasibility Study.

The study will assist WECI with decisions on whether to pursue deployment of broadband services within its member service territory of Athens, Guernsey, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, and Washington Counties.

Major tasks include conducting an initial competitive analysis of market conditions, developing capital expenditure cost estimates, preparing a high-level financial business plan, and conducting a market study to determine the potential “take rate” of broadband services.

Through this study, WECI will be able to determine the gaps that exist in the local broadband infrastructure and how to bridge those gaps.


The seven POWER Initiative grants in Ohio were among 54 in nine states.

The ARC projects they will create or retain over 5,700 jobs, leverage more than $39 million in private investment, create and/or retain 2,940 businesses, and train thousands of workers and students within the broadband, entrepreneurship, substance use recovery, tourism and other industry sectors.