ARC grants designed to train workers

Money will create ‘makers spaces’ in Marietta, Nelsonville, Somerset

Though the Appalachian Regional Commission’s future is still unknown in the nation’s capital, projects are full steam ahead in the region.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council was awarded $1.2 million recently to fund a three new “makers spaces” in Marietta, Somerset and Nelsonville.

Executive Director Misty Casto said she was pleased to announce the investment because of the impact the new spaces can have on workers from the coal industry. These shared workspaces will ultimately be open to anyone, though.

Across the ARC, 18 projects will receive $15.7 million and create or retain more than 1,700 jobs. The projects are expected to benefit nearly 1,200 students and workers and leverage an additional $64 million into the region.

“The network project will help workers and communities impacted by coal’s decline to recover employment and income, strengthen and diversify local economies and grow, retain and attract talent to the region,” she said. “The three spaces will be unique to the needs of their communities. In the village of Somerset, they don’t have as much access locally to higher education so the space will be primarily focused on learning.”

Meanwhile in Nelsonville and Marietta entrepreneurial development will coincide with specific skill development.

“In Nelsonville they will have wood working and textile equipment and training in their space while Marietta will have things like 3D printing, welding and woodworking along with computer graphics programs,” explained Casto.

The Innovation Gateway Network will also provide locals with access to the other network facilities.

“We’re going to tailor these spaces to the needs of locals but if there’s a program that is offered at another location that someone needs we will help coordinate transportation so that you have access to the entire network,” explained Casto.

Casto said though the Appalachian Regional Commission’s funding is still proposed to be cut by President Donald Trump’s budget, the three-year project is fully funded out of this fiscal year’s budget and would not be affected immediately if that cut is approved by congress.

“The administration has proposed to close out the ARC by Oct. 2018 but this project is through available funds in this fiscal year,” she explained. “And we were allowed to leverage the value of the buildings as the local match so the $1.2 million will go entirely to equipping the facilities and contracting services.”

In the Marietta makers space, location still to be determined, welding and other hand-skills classes can open doors to other educational tracks in the area, provide a space to build products for internet-based secondary income sales, or to prototype product ideas for mass-manufacturing.

“It’s an opportunity to prototype in an environment where you only have to pay a small fee instead of have that overhead,” said Development Director Bret Allphin. “And it will be a space for multi-generational use, young entrepreneurs can learn from the skills of the great workforce and industrial community we have in this region.”

A variety of regional partners are supporting the creation of these spaces as well including Hocking College, Ohio University and in Marietta, the Building Bridges to Careers program.

“There’s an overarching opportunity that can build a community through these spaces,” said Jennifer Simon, executive director of regional innovation at Ohio University. “People need to feel like their skills are important and these spaces will show them they’re still part of a network of people with similar skills and ideas.”

The innovation center will provide visiting experts for the three spaces to provide guidance and basic instruction on the equipment in each space.

For more on what a makers space can provide to a community and budding entrepreneurs visit ideafoundry.com.

At a glance

¯ Appalachian Power Grant awarded to Buckeye Hills by the Appalachian Regional Commission for three innovation and education centers in Somerset, Nelsonville and Marietta.

¯ The grant amount is $1.2 million.

Source: Buckeye Hills.

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