The Appalachian region of Ohio is diverse in both its landscapes and people. The 32 Ohio counties that make up Appalachian Ohio have terrain perfect for hiking and biking, beautiful waterways for boating or fishing, and even sandy beaches on our northern coast in Ashtabula.
My wife, Fran, and I just spent a few days in part of the region with our family and enjoyed many activities, including outdoor opportunities at Lake Hope in McArthur, a performance of Tecumseh at Sugarloaf Mountain Theater in Chillicothe and a tour of historic Buckeye Furnace in Wellston.
Appalachian Ohio has produced great innovators and has helped spur development with worldwide impact. Take a trip to Appalachian Ohio and you can find the childhood home of astronaut John Glenn. You also can see Global Cooling, a company that is providing deep freezer technology to help store the COVID-19 vaccine across the country and around the globe. Appalachian Ohio has world-class higher education institutions, abundant recreational opportunities, budding entrepreneurs and a strong sense of community.
An urgent need in the region is broadband access. During the past year, we have all seen the impact of internet connectivity. From connecting students to school or linking patients to hospitals, broadband access can have a major impact on quality of life.
In Ohio, we are making access to broadband internet a priority. Projects throughout the region received Appalachian Region Commission POWER funding, and in 2020, Ohio projects totaled $2.68 million in awards. Through the Office of BroadbandOhio, we are taking a local, collaborative approach, engaging local leaders and industry partners. We know what works in Marietta may not work in Coshocton, but working together, we can find the right solutions.
Further, with more than $200 million in the state budget, we recently launched the Residential Broadband Expansion Grant, which will help service providers increase access in unserved and underserved areas of the state. Access to broadband internet is important to Ohio’s future, and the ARC and statewide efforts are positioning the region for better access.
Workforce and economic development are key priorities for our state, and our business assistance programs have focused on building success in the Appalachian region. Our Small Business Development Centers provided services to more than 2,000 businesses and entrepreneurs in Appalachia in the most recent program year, and our Export Assistance Network and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers have local offices in the 32-county area.
One challenge facing our country — and especially Appalachia — is substance abuse. While serving recently as ARC co-chair, I wanted to address this issue. Our team at the Governor’s Office of Appalachia hosted listening sessions throughout the 32-county region to hear about the challenges that our citizens are facing on a local level. As a result of ARC’s work and our local listening sessions, ARC formed the INvestments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems, or INSPIRE — a $10 million initiative to address this crisis. The program helps people through recovery and gives them the support they need to get back into the workforce. In Ohio, projects such as the Recovery Ecosystem Expansion Initiative and the Southern Ohio Employer Resource Network have received funds through INSPIRE to address substance abuse in their regions.
Appalachia Ohio is resilient. Through our federal and state efforts, we continue to support the region with access to needed resources. For example, Ohio is the only Appalachian state that matches ARC funds with state dollars and has an office — the Governor’s Office of Appalachia — specifically to address and represent the needs of the region. Director John Carey and his team take a local and personalized approach to projects in the region.
It was an honor to serve as ARC co-chair and represent the great state of Ohio. There are great things happening in Appalachian Ohio, and it has so much to offer Ohioans and the country.
I will continue to work to help advance Appalachia’s economic success.
This region is filled with great people, unique history, beautiful landscapes, and offers a tremendous opportunity to find your future!