The manufacturing landscape throughout Appalachian Ohio recently got a $1.7 million shot in the arm, according to officials, courtesy of a federal grant.

The “Make it in America” grant, according to Congressman Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, will be instrumental in accelerating job creation in the state’s 15th congressional district and nearby regions.
More specifically, the grant – the end product of a well-coordinated program between several business-advocating organizations – will serve a 28-county region in Appalachia.

The organizations that coordinate the project, called “Make it in Appalachia Ohio,” were the:

  • Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District;
  • Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG);
  • Ohio Workforce Investment Area 15;
  • Ohio Valley Employment Resource (OVER).

The grant ultimately includes $401,000 development site cataloguing activities; $1,300,000 for incumbent worker training and $375,000 for supply chain work, officials said in February.

Bret Allphin, Development Director and GIS Manager at Buckeye Hills, said his organization was “very proud to receive this project” but “very surprised as well.”

Here’s why, in his words to Leo Rommel of Industry Today: “(The) EDA has been very focused on multi-agency nationwide challenge programs in the past several years, and due to the rural nature and small population of our region, it’s been very difficult for agencies like ours to compete in these programs.”

But that obstacle was overcome, he said, thanks to “the right mix of industries ripe for development and strongly committed partners who were able to come up with a very strong project that would benefit the region.”

Stivers said he was “happy to support” the above organizations’ efforts when they applied for the much-coveted grant last year.

“Appalachian Ohio is incredibly well-positioned to attract new businesses and jobs to the region,” he said in a prepared statement. “The ‘Make it in America Challenge Grant’ will help the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District serve the community and support businesses committed to making it in Appalachian Ohio.”

He added that the grant will be utilized to build the region’s key re-shoring areas to bring further investment in the following industries:

  • Metal fabrication;
  • Polymers and chemicals;
  • Wood manufacturing.

Officials at Buckeye Hills said those industries were targeted because they are “strong in the region” and “growing in the state.”

Allphin added that those industries are also best situated for reshoring opportunities.

“Not only are these industries critical to the regional economy of Appalachian Ohio, but we also felt these industries were well positioned to attract investment and employment opportunities that had previously been lost to overseas competition if we could provide an environment for them to flourish in,” he said.

“By examining, cataloguing, and marketing our physical assets available for development, providing focused incumbent worker training, and developing important manufacturing supply chain information, we feel we can provide that supportive environment in Appalachian Ohio,” he added.

According to Stivers, the project will include three initiatives, starting with a development site inventory and economic development asset mapping, led by Buckeye Hills. Later, a wood furniture manufacturing supply chain that will engage more than 400 local firms will be developed, led by APEG, followed by a worker training program focused on strengthen the region’s workforce in the target industries.

That last initiative, according to the congressman, will engage more than 800 workers. It will be led by OVER.

“We are pleased to partner with APEG and through the assistance of a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), we had the resources necessary to coordinate a competitive grant application for our region in the national Challenge,” Buckeye Hills Executive Director Misty Casto said.

“The grant program is designed to help distressed regions build on existing assets and create a competitive environment for foreign-owned and domestic firms to establish and grow their U.S. operations, and create jobs,” Casto added.

APEG indicates that the project builds upon the region’s key reshoring assets, including:

  • Access to markets;
  • World-class highway-rail-river infrastructure;
  • Access to locally sourced fuel and feedstocks;
  • Manufacturing strength in targeted industries.

John Molinaro, president and CEO of APEG, which provides JobsOhio and Manufacturing Extension Partnership Services in Appalachian Ohio, said he expects the region to successfully reshore firms and thus, jobs in the target industries from Europe, the Mideast, and Russia.

He added that jobs may be reshored from China and Southeast Asia as well.

According to Allphin, the application was completed by a collection of staff members from organizations dedicated to the development of the Appalachian region of Ohio.

“Individuals from the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (the JobsOhio network partner for eastern and southeastern Ohio), Buckeye Hills, the Ohio Valley Employment Resource (OVER), and the Ohio Development Services Agency worked closely on this effort,” he said.

The Governor’s Office of Appalachia then provided some initial funding to help support the research and manpower needed to pull it all together.

“A coordinated effort on behalf of all the partners was essential to the completion of this application,” Allphin said. “The amount of energy put in to this application was significant.”

The organization leading the project is Buckeye Hills, and there are many reasons why.

“Just look at the proven record of success in a variety of industries and developments,” Allphin said.

The Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District is a Council of Governments created in 1968. It represents an eight-county region of southeastern Ohio with a population of 260,000 in 120 townships and 57 municipalities.

“Our organization works to improve the quality of life for residents through the effective administration of publicly funded projects, the provision of technical assistance, and other support activities for local governments,” Allphin said.

The organization, he adds, works in areas such as water and sewer project administration, public works project administration, grant writing, small business assistance, transportation planning, digital mapping and other related technical services.

“Buckeye Hills also operates the Area Agency on Aging 8, which provides much-needed services to the senior residents of the eight-county region,” Allphin said.


The Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District is organized as a voluntary organization of local government political subdivisions to foster cooperative efforts across Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry, and Washington counties in Ohio.


The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth provides JobsOhio and Manufacturing Extensive Partnership Services in Appalachian Ohio.


The Ohio Valley Employment Resource services the Ohio Workforce Investment Area 15, which comprises of Morgan, Noble, and Washington counties in Ohio.



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