Investments Spark Economic Development Opportunities

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Many months of hard work, planning, and collaboration among various partners have been rewarded this spring as the DeWine Administration announced the results of the long-anticipated Appalachian Community Grant (ACG) Program.

Last week, Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) Director Lydia Mihalik toured eastern and southeastern Ohio announcing $204 million in grants to 39 communities in the final awards of the ACG Program. The bulk of last week’s awards were part of $152 million to Ohio’s Wonderful Waterfronts Initiative with $52 million coming at the end of the week for a collection of waterfront, downtown, and recreational projects. A week earlier, the same leaders toured southern Ohio awarding $154 million for the Appalachian Downtowns and Destinations Initiative.

In March, the state announced that 28 ACG projects were funded through a $64-million award for the Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative that will create or expand school-based health clinics and launch healthcare-focused workforce development programs.

All in total, 97 project awards have been announced this year. These awards are on top of $80 million that was awarded during 2023 to a small batch of shovel-ready projects.

Collectively, the $500-million ACG should spark transformational developments across the 32 Appalachian Ohio counties through enhancements to recreation, tourism, downtown revitalization, healthcare, and workforce development. In addition to Administration officials, the Governor’s Office of Appalachia (GOA), the four Appalachian Local Development Districts (LDDs), procured planners, local officials, and applicants alike should all take some time to relish the unprecedented magnitude of these awards.

For the applicants, the real hard work starts now. What are the implications for the eligible winners?

  1. With the American Rescue and Recovery (ARPA) clock ticking—all such funds must be fully spent by fall 2026—there is no time to rest as deadlines loom to complete projects. Planning all action steps now will save time, money, and avoid pitfalls.
  2. Grant and subrecipient agreements will need to be executed.
  3. If not already under contract, design professionals will need to be legally procured, and full designs will need to be completed. Permits may need to be secured and bidding documents will need to be drafted.
  4. Construction contracts (traditional bid, design-build, or construction-manager-at-risk) will need to be executed. Plans will need to be made for construction supervision and fiscal oversight and controls.
  5. Having a plan for prevailing wage compliance will be important.
  6. If any hiring is required, appropriate HR policies and procedures will need to be in place.
  7. Once built, required reporting must be administered to ensure the projects yield the public benefits promised.

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