PIKETON, Ohio – Rural business development in Ohio and West Virginia is getting a boost thanks to a $200,000 grant presented to the Ohio Cooperative Development Center, housed at The Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon.
The funding is one of 29 grants awarded Oct. 3 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Rural Cooperative Development Grant program. The federal agency awards a total of $5.8 million to help rural cooperatives create jobs and support business expansion, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement.
“America’s rural communities have incredible potential to create jobs and expand economic opportunities,” Vilsack said in the statement. “Many rural businesses and organizations are succeeding under the cooperative business model, and with access to additional resources, they can boost job creation and create an environment where more products are made in rural America.”
The grant will be used to help businesses and individuals in rural Ohio and West Virginia explore cooperative opportunities in several industries, including energy and wood products, according to Sam Rikkers, administrator of USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service, who announced the grant awardees during a visit to the centers in Piketon this week.
The grant will provide the opportunity for groups exploring cooperatives and for emerging cooperatives to access one-on-one technical assistance throughout their development process, said Hannah Scott, program manager of the Ohio Cooperative Development Center.
The center is part of Ohio State University Extension’s work to increase economic productivity and job and business development in the region. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. The OSU South Centers are also a part of the college.
“The center’s mission revolves around rural economic development,” Scott said. “We provide assistance to businesses in order for them to become drivers of economic growth in their communities.
“We’re appreciative of USDA’s support of this work this year and throughout our history. OCDC has been working in Ohio since 2000 and has recently expanded to offer services in West Virginia.”
As a result of the funding, the development center will provide a seed grant program to develop and expand cooperatives, she said, with a goal to assist 20 businesses and eight startups.
The grant will provide a beneficial boost to the region, Scott said.
According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, residents in Appalachian Ohio and West Virginia experienced 8.9 and 7.2 percent unemployment, respectively, from 2011 through 2013, with a per-capita income in 2013 of $24,855 and $26,020 and a three-year poverty rate of 17.6 and 17.9 percent, respectively.
During the past five years, the center has provided more than 2,900 hours of technical assistance and has assisted with the formation of 35 cooperatives and other business entities in a variety of industries, Scott said.
That has resulted in an estimated 194 new jobs and 229 retained jobs. It has also resulted in the investment of $72,000 in seed grants, she said.
Examples of work that the USDA grant can fund include conducting feasibility studies, developing business plans, providing leadership and operational improvement training, and facilitating strategic planning for individuals and businesses in rural areas, Scott said.
For more information on the Ohio Cooperative Development Center and its programs, contact Scott at 740-289-2071, ext. 227, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
740-289-2071, ext. 227