The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission held the first Fayette County Caucus meeting of 2017 Monday. Private, for-profit businesses are eligible for grants and loans to help with economic development in the rural area.
The Fayette County Caucus meeting was held in the county office of the Fayette County Commissioners during their regularly-scheduled open meeting Monday.
Jack DeWeese, caucus chairman, called the meeting to order at 1:30 p.m.
John Hemmings, executive director for Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, presented several items on the Fayette County Caucus agenda. Caucus membership was reviewed and revised and member contact information was updated with approved membership changes.
Hemmings asked if the group wanted to keep DeWeese, a county commissioner, in the position of the caucus chairman,
Dan Dean, county commissioner, moved to keep DeWeese as the caucus chairman. Tony Anderson, also a county commissioner, seconded the motion.
Hemmings asked the group to select a private sector or member-at-large representative to the executive committee.
Dan Dean moved to nominate Jim Gusweiler as the causes’s private sector representative to executive committee. Jack DeWeese seconded the motion.
Two more committee members were nominated and approved: Bill Cupp will remain as the caucus’s revolving loan fund committee member and Tim Mitchel will continue on in the position of project review committee member.
Next Hemmings updated everyone on the Economic Development Administration’s Appalachian Regional Commission priority project packages from fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
The priority project packages include state area development projects, federal area development projects, distressed county projects, access road projects, and state rapid response projects.
State and federal funds from 2016 and ‘17 were awarded for projects across the state for water system improvements, sewer extensions, water line improvements, intersection improvements, hospital equipment, and certain types of personnel training.
There were no priority grant projects from the state or federal government for Fayette County in the 2016 and 2017 packages.
Hemmings said the county is considering a gas line for the mega-site project in Jeffersonville and said funding for that project could be included in a future Appalachian Regional Commission priority project package through the Economic Development Administration.The Fayette County Commissioners are also considering adding electric and extending rail line into the mega-site in Jeffersonville.
Expected budget appropriations for the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission’s Economic Development Administration for fiscal year 2018 are uncertain at this time, said Hemmings, as Congress would not approve a budget under the Obama administration. He said they will wait to see what the Trump administration does, but said the Economic Development Administration is one of the agencies targeted by Trump to be dismantled.
“We’ll see where it goes from there,” said Hemmings.
Some projects that have already been funded with grants by the Economic Development Administration include the water line from Bloomingburg to the ethanol plant, and the project in Greenfield that received $2.6 million for a rail line in that area in 2012.
Hemmings indicated that the county can apply for several million dollars for a project, and said that a $500,000 request would be a low figure to ask for.
“If you’re going to go for Economic Development Administration money, with all the things that come with it, I would try to get as much money from the Economic Development Administration program as possible,” said Hemmings.
Next, Malcolm Meyer, the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission Transportation planning coordinator, gave an overview of the Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) Program.
The planning program was initiated in 2013 and in January 2016, Gov. John Kasich recognized the RTPO as an administrative program. RTPO focuses on planning transportation programs in Ohio’s rural regions, helping communities to secure funding for transportation opportunities, and provide forums of communication between rural local government officials and the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Currently they are working with ODOT district nine, and are looking at beginning to work with district six on transportation planning and projects.
Meyer said they are asking members if they have any small projects they would like RTPO to work on over the next year. He said there is some funding available to conduct safety studies. He indicated that the group can do studies for determining safe school routes.
The funding for these small projects comes from the Regional Transportation Improvement Programs (RTIPs). Hemmings said they are working to try to educate state legislators to get capital budgets for RTPO projects. That effort is expected to continue, he said, but legislators have been slow in recognizing the need for the regional transportation programs.
Dean said there are a couple of dangerous intersections in the county that can be changed or improved to lessen fatal automobile accidents and asked if the RTPO program could help with that. Meyer said they can work with the RTPO program and ODOT to look at the intersections and develop a plan.
The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission Economic Development Administration is willing to assist with the process of applying for project grants.
Hemmings said Fayette County private for-profit businesses are eligible for revolving loan funds from the Economic Development Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Economic Development Administration loan can help fill a gap between banks and private borrowers, especially if a bank does not want to take a risk on a small business owner for whatever reason. Hemmings said the Economic Development Administration loans are not a replacement for bank loans, but are working in partnership with banks in a concentrated effort for developing rural businesses.
For questions regarding Economic Development Administration grants, Hemmings said to contact Jessica Keeton, economic development specialist at the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture loans for private for-profit businesses are targeted at natural resource businesses, but Hemmings said they are willing to look beyond that.
For questions about funds through the revolving loan fund, contact Stephanie Gilbert, community and economic development specialist at the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission.
For additional questions about rural regional development contact the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission main office at (740) 947-2853.
The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission will hold its full commission banquet in Fayette County this year at the Commission on Aging. This public meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 31 and will feature food and a presentation by Cliff Rosenberger, Ohio Speaker of the House. For information or to purchase tickets for the event, call the main office or visit www.ovrdc.org.
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton