Proposed Ohio Builds Would Invest $500M in Appalachia

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced their proposal to invest $500 million in the Appalachian region of the state.

Dubbed “Ohio Builds – Small Communities, Big Impact – A Plan for Appalachia,” the proposed investment would support local initiatives to revitalize downtown districts, enhance quality of life and help rebuild the economies of Ohio’ 32 Appalachian counties, which include Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, according to a release.

“The story of Ohio began with the pioneers in Appalachia, and it is now time to turn the page to a new and exciting chapter in this region’s future,” said Gov. DeWine. “The plan that we are proposing today will energize our Appalachian communities so that the next generation of pioneers can forge new paths and secure a better future for this region.”

The three priority areas of the Ohio Builds proposal are restoring historic downtowns, improving community health and rebuilding the local workforce, according to the release. It includes a $50 million planning phase to allow Appalachian communities and regional partnerships to develop plans that incorporate each of the three funding priorities.

“We have entered an era where people can live in one place and work in another,” said Lt. Gov. Husted. “This means with the right kind of technology infrastructure, educational opportunities, affordable living with a high quality of life that rural communities have more opportunities than ever – this proposal will help make this possibility a reality.”

After the planning phase, the remaining $450 million would be awarded in implementation grants to implement qualifying projects.

The announcement comes a day after Gov. DeWine visited Trumbull County to announce the state would allocate $3.4 million in Brownfield redevelopment grant monies to help raze and remediate the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital along Tod Avenue.

Throughout the DeWine-Husted Administration, the Ohio Department of Development has invested more than $472 million in Appalachia Ohio to improve infrastructure, expand broadband access, and boost development, according to the release. Ohio Builds looks to improve upon those efforts.

“I believe this investment will truly be the support that the Appalachian region needs to ensure long-term sustainable impacts,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development. “We look forward to working with the local communities to create solutions and cultivate success in the region.”

The 32-county Appalachian region covers 39% of the state and is historically economically disadvantaged and sparsely populated, with 124 persons per square mile compared to the statewide average of 285.

Funding for the initiative is being provided through the American Rescue Plan. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan applauded the state of Ohio for using money from the American Rescue Plan Act, which he supported, to invest in the state’s small towns and Appalachian communities.

“This is exactly what these federal dollars were meant to do — reinvest in our forgotten communities and plug them into a new and growing economy,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said.

Once secured, the funding will be administered through the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia within the Ohio Department of Development and other agency partners.

“I have been representing Appalachia throughout my career, and I know the opportunities that exist in our region,” said Governor’s Office of Appalachia Director John Carey. “On behalf of my fellow Appalachians, I’m incredibly grateful for Governor DeWine’s commitment to help provide opportunities for this wonderful place that so many of us call home.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.