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Economic Development


Ohio's regional planning and development organizations work to strengthen local governments, economies and communities through regional collaboration, strategies and partnerships. As public-based entities governed by policy boards of local elected officials, along with private sector and community representatives, these entities often focus on developing and implementing comprehensive economic development strategies.

Packaging Deals and Matching Needs with Funding

Regional councils have professionals trained in technical support and grant writing to help local governments and businesses package deals and match needs with available funding.

Across rural Ohio, regional councils also serve as Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) local development districts (LDDs). In 2009, Ohio’s four LDDs participated in 291 economic development projects involving over $250 million in funding and resulting in over 16,000 jobs being created or retained. And, Ohio’s LDDs are efficient and effective securing more than $88 in direct project dollars for every one dollar spent on project administration.

Helping Small Businesses Access Capital

Regional councils represent their constituents’ stakeholder values in the state and federal public policy and funding environments. Working with legislators, these leaders help to generate visibility to regional needs and help access critical funding.

Many of Ohio’s Regional Councils operate federally funded business development finance programs and revolving loan funds (RLFs) that fill a critical capital gap. In many cases, their funding is used to supplement capital accessed from private sources. Today, a whole range of both equity and debt financing opportunities are in place, and new tools, such as microloan resources are available.

Another benefit of these revolving loan fund or business development programs is that they have a primary focus on supporting local economic development, whether local wealth creation or job creation and retention. Loan fund managers look for good deals, but their definition of “good” is often different from traditional investors. They need and want to be repaid, but they also want to back firms that stay anchored in the community, creating jobs and economic opportunities into the future.

Preventing Brain Drain

In these times of needed change, regional councils raise a litany of questions.

  • How can Ohio revitalize its cities and make better use of existing infrastructure?
  • Can vibrant cities keep educated young adults in the state as an engine of a new economy?
  • Is there a strategy to foster an environment that creates jobs appealing to young graduates?
  • What sorts of jobs will replace manufacturing? In what fields?
  • Is there infrastructure in place, or plans to meet the needs of new types of jobs?
  • Is there an academic infrastructure in place, or planned, to meet the needs of new types of jobs and to keep creative young entrepreneurs in the state?

One example of regional councils at work is The Hocking College Energy Institute. The program received federal grants from The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) and The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to support its new Energy Institute to train students in the advanced energy technology sector. Opened in 2009, the Institute provides 12,000 sq. feet of training and lab space for organizations producing new energy products. Training in wind and solar energy development, biofuels production, and fuel cell production is included in program offerings.

Providing Technical Support

Regional Councils often play a role in developing, analyzing and presenting the data and information needed to enhance and support regional and local planning and development efforts. These agencies are increasingly using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide more in-depth data and mapping services, including through the use of interactive Web sites.

GIS technology gathers, stores and analyzes data which is compiled into digital maps that show information geographically and in layers, allowing users to add or take away various data as needed throughout the planning and decision-making processes. Around Ohio, Regional Councils are using GIS services for an array of issues, such as transportation planning and public transportation routing, enhanced 911 services, land use, emergency evacuation routes, flood plain mapping, infrastructure inventory and planning, zoning, school bus routes, special service transportation routes, natural resource management, housing, tourism and economic development.

GIS and related technologies are used to improve the delivery, planning and coordination of federal, state and local programs, as well as expand their services to private and nonprofit entities such as utilities, hospitals, schools and chambers of commerce. Most importantly, technical professionals are using their institutional knowledge and capacity to bring advanced GIS services to small metropolitan and rural regions that previously lacked, by themselves, the financial and staffing support needed to establish and maintain a GIS program.

Regional councils can work locally to create solutions. Ohio’s policies need updating to reflect the regional nature of our economies – and to finally require a formal role for regional councils, established nearly 50 years ago.