Appalachian conference a success for Scioto County

Attendees of the conference

Attendees of the conference

Last week, elected officials and economic development officials across the 32 Appalachian Ohio communities met at Shawnee Lodge and Conference Center for the second Annual Appalachian Forward Conference.

The Appalachia Forward Conference, organized by the Ohio University Voinovich School of Public Leadership, provided the 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 program is expected to begin accepting applications mid-fall.

The conference welcomed 160+ attendees, both in person and virtual, to a keynote from Ohio Director of Development Lydia Mihalik, remarks from Director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia John Carey, and showcased presentations, panels and more.

“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,” said John Hemmings, OVRDC Executive Director.

The conference is 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. Lipot serves mayors and city managers in 18 counties, representing nearly 120 communities and a population of almost 800,000.

“The Appalachia Forward Conference highlighted the historic and unprecedented opportunity we have to undertake transformative placemaking efforts in Appalachian Ohio. Many passionate professionals have been working on developing our world-class assets and the Appalachian Community Grant Program presents a chance to collaborate and exponentially propel that momentum into a new era of prosperity and possibility for our region,” said Jessica Keeton, OVRDC Economic Development Coordinator.

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.

When not in session, Gina Collinsworth, of the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC), worked with a group of people to form hospitality services to the guests.

“It was an absolute pleasure to welcome attendees for the Ohio University Appalachia Forward Conference to Scioto County and downtown Portsmouth, Ohio. OVRDC staff helped organize pre-conference activities to showcase some of the wonderful tourist activities in the area, including a hike up Raven Rock State Nature Preserve with state forest naturalist Jenny Richards, and a walking tour of the Portsmouth Murals in the historic Boneyfiddle District with Butch Stahl,” Collinsworth said. “After the activities, guests met in the Main Street Portsmouth 535 Second Street event space for a casual reception. Sue Burke was on hand to share the story about how the renovation project came together. The biggest reward—after hearing about the Main Street Portsmouth project, several people were inspired to take the idea back and see if they could create something similar in their towns.”

Attendees of the conference of the conference

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved