Ohio University gets $300,000 grant for project to improve life in Appalachia

Published: Jun. 23, 2017 at 1:51 PM EDT
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The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) recently announced it will award Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs a $300,000 grant for the Social Enterprise Ecosystem (SEE Appalachia) project, which seeks to make positive changes to health and wellness, education and the environment.

The Voinovich School and its partners, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, will work throughout a 10-county region in Ohio and West Virginia to support social enterprises that share the project’s goals. The project will assist social enterprises, which combine the social mission of a nonprofit with the market-driven approach of a business, with financing and operational sustainability in every stage, from start-up to eventual growth and expansion.

Faith Knutsen, program director of SEE Appalachia and associate director of TechGROWTH Ohio at the Voinovich School, identified SEE Appalachia’s central contribution to social enterprises as the application of venture development tools.

“Bringing venture development tools, including metrics that measure success, to social enterprises and their funders can have significant impact on an important and underserved sector of the economy, currently calculated at more than 10 percent of the US workforce and the third-largest of national economic sectors,” Knutsen said. “We look forward to helping social entrepreneurs grow, impact their communities, and improve the region’s economy.”

In its first year, the project is expected to materially impact at least 12 social enterprise start-ups to gain sufficient investment for launch, create 20 well-paying jobs, and leverage $1.18 million in private investment. The Voinovich School will coordinate the project; the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation will provide regional outreach and identify potential social enterprise clients, assist in building capacity for social enterprise work, and advise on venture investment decisions.

"The work made possible through this grant will help nonprofits and other enterprises struggling to find dependable funding while bolstering their sustainability to do good in Appalachian communities," Cara Dingus Brook, president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, said. "The work we witness everyday in Appalachian communities shows us that the investments made by this grant are necessary and will make a difference in the lives of our region's citizens."

The Voinovich School’s grant was one of 18 awarded by the ARC as part of a larger effort to strengthen the Appalachian region through economic diversification. The awards were made through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, a congressionally funded multi-agency strategy bringing federal resources directly to help communities and regions that have been impacted by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

“Each one of these awards is a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Appalachia,” ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl said. “Together, these investments bring added capital into the Region and help Appalachia prepare to globally compete in manufacturing, technology, local agriculture, construction, and a variety of other industry sectors.”