Appalachian grant process focuses on teamwork

Appalachian grant process focuses on teamwork

Image Credit: Dave Mast

With millions of dollars eventually on the line for the state’s Appalachian Technical Assistance Grant program, it is no wonder that there’s lots of excitement, along with many questions, for many Holmes County organizations interested in pursuing a portion of those available funds.

While each entity has its own agenda, the funding also invites various groups to explore banding together to create grant requests that involve multiple organizations.

“These grants are designed to help strengthen local economies in the Appalachian region,” said OMEGA representative Jeanette Wierzbicki, who met with close to 50 different representatives of various businesses and organizations in Holmes County Nov. 3 at Harvest Ridge to provide information and answer questions about the grant process.

“The hope is that counties will develop detailed budgets and grant requests that specifically spell out the narrative they hope to create in obtaining funds, and the best way to do that is to develop partnerships both within and outside of the county that fulfill all of the requirements for the grants.”

The initial round of grant funding creates a total of $250,000 for each of 32 Appalachian counties in Ohio. Each request must meet strict criteria, with point amounts being accumulated in different areas, such as community infrastructure, healthcare, workforce, community partnerships, investments, regional impact, and more.

According to Holmes County commissioner Dave Hall, who has provided educational meetings on the grants and has been a proponent of urging various entities to prepare requests, this opportunity can aid the county in many ways, and the ability to work together is critical.

“Working collaboratively to create the best possible grant requests that check all the various boxes set forth by the state will be instrumental in receiving the grant funding,” Hall said.

This opening round of grants for the $250,000 is only the beginning of the Appalachian grant process. Once accepted, counties can then apply for more.

Christi Wengerd, a member of the Winesburg Historical Society, said she came to the event because she wanted to learn more about the program’s details.

“Our main interest is promoting Winesburg and bringing it out into the people, and this is one way we can better Winesburg,” Wengerd said. “It looks as though with this, it will be necessary to team up with many different entities and know exactly what you’d like to accomplish.”

Several members of the Holmes County Soil & Water Conservation District were on hand, as were members of the Killbuck Wildlife Preservation Society. Both groups want to enhance the waterways and ecosystems of the county and came to learn more about what will be the best ways to apply for funding.

“This goes right along with the ideas of what we have had in store for the Muskingum Watershed,” said Karen Gotter, SWCD watershed coordinator for Killbuck Creek. “It’s going to take a cohesive effort in combining all of our resources to secure funding that will create more boat and kayak launches while enhancing the river and creating a healthier ecosystem.”

There were a lot of questions at the meeting, and many felt the need to learn more about the minute details of the grants to which they need to adhere. Questions about separating buggy, bicycle and road traffic, tourism growth, health benefits, transportation and commerce were discussed.

Hall said the discussions are invaluable in the county’s effort to grow.

“The state wants more planning and more teaming together,” Hall said “They will supply the guidance, and the county is here for support. The big issue is, are our local entities willing to package together to find funding? This program is designed to push from the bottom up and will be driven by the creativity of the people of Holmes County.”

Holmes County health commissioner Michael Derr said he and his organization are ready and willing to step in and unite with any interested entity, since health is such a driving force for a portion of the scoring system.

“Our county already has a pretty robust planning group in terms of health, and the health field is so involved with just about every other entity of Holmes County,” Derr said. “This is such a great opportunity for Holmes County, and we feel we have partners throughout the county that tie back into the health field. From schools to the police department to our entertainment venues and many more, the health department has ties to so many, so we are willing and ready to sit down and discuss partnering with anyone and everyone.”

Hall said it was exciting to see so many entities sitting down at the table to join forces, and said this initial grant funding for $250,000 is only available for a short time of four weeks and providing a complete and descriptive grant request in a short span is crucial.

He said with the county blessed with creative and entrepreneurial people, he fully expects to see people come together to generate the necessary grant requests that could open the door to many exciting new projects that have to be completed by 2026.