Annual State of the Region Conference Highlights Placemaking as an Economic Development Strategy

Photo by Dylan Townsend

The 11th annual State of Appalachia Ohio Conference brought together government officials, economic development experts and area leaders from all 32 counties to discuss issues relating to economic growth in rural Ohio.

The conference, held Tuesday, May 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Baker University Center Ballroom, reached capacity for in-person attendance weeks before the event and also offered virtual programming. The annual event is sponsored by the Voinovich School of Leadership and the Public Service Economic Development Administration University Center at Ohio University. This year’s event featured more than 15 speakers who discussed the role of spacemaking in economic development and explored the opportunities and challenges of economic growth in our communities.

“This year’s annual conference focused on creating place and reimagining rural economies,” said Jason Jolley, director of the Masters in Public Administration at the Voinovich School. “We are excited to share innovative practices used by Appalachian communities across Ohio to revitalize their downtowns, build their workforce, and improve the quality of life for citizens.

Speakers provided insight into their experiences at organizations such as JobsOhio, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, among others.

The event itinerary consisted of four sessions: Quality of Life in Our Region, Appalachian Workforce Development, Economic Impact of Community Events, and Revitalizing Downtown Neighborhoods, all of which encompassed the theme of the year.

Photo by Dylan Townsend

Kathy Zook, ARC program manager for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, has been involved in planning the state of the region conference since its inception and was a session moderator for Building Appalachia’s Workforce.

“The conference never fails to energize me with the wealth of collaboration, knowledge and successes as well as areas we need to improve,” Zook said. “The conference brings together the public and private sectors who inspire us to come out with new and fresh ideas to improve our communities and shine a light on Appalachia’s unique culture as a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

The State of the Appalachian State Conference in Ohio is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s University Center for Economic Development Administration Project at The Voinovich School of Ohio University and is supported by Ohio Southeast Economic Development, Appalachian Partnership Inc., Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

For more information about the conference, visit https://www.ohio.edu/voinovich-school/projects/appalachian-ohio-state-region-conference.


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