NELSONVILLE, Ohio — Appalachian Ohio’s wood products industry received a boost from two federally funded programs Oct. 15 at Ohio University in Athens.
Part of its Regional Innovation Cluster program, the U.S. Small Business Administration will support activities to strengthen the Appalachian Ohio’s furniture-making sector as well as sub-sectors including veneer and plywood, flooring and engineered wood manufacturing. The award is part of the inter-agency Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative, designed to assist communities impacted by changes in the coal economy.
The initiative will serve the 32 designated Appalachian Ohio counties and will be administered by the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, Nelsonville, Ohio. The SBA contract is for $500,000 the first year and can be renewed for four additional years for a total of $2.5 million.
The sector is one of the state’s top five manufacturing sectors for projected employment growth through 2020. The majority of furniture and wood product manufacturing companies employ fewer than 25 people.
Among the services to be proved by APEG are technical assistance to improve manufacturing productivity; the development of a wood products supply chain database; industry workforce training; export assistance and industry research.
Two institutions of higher education will be part of the effort. Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs will perform the research component of the initiative and Washington State Community College, Marietta, Ohio, has launched a certification training program for wood products manufacturing.
The Appalachian Ohio Wood Products Cluster will be directed by Craig Rosenlund. He has been working with Appalachian forestry and wood products companies for the past 18 months leading APEG’s Make It in America Challenge grant in the wood sector.
A second POWER initiative was announced by the Appalachian Regional Commission and awarded to Rural Action, southeastern Ohio community-based sustainable development organization. The $68,700 one-year grant will focus on 75 southeastern Ohio wood and forest product producers.
The grant will bring together entrepreneurs to identify market and service delivery options that help rural small businesses collaborate to increase revenues; connect producers to technical and workforce support; assist landowners with forest management and sustainable production; and connect wood products to the tourism sector through Ohio’s Appalachian Winding Road project.
The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) is the first ever economic development organization focused on Ohio’s Appalachian region. Created in 2012 to serve 25 counties as one of six JobsOhio network partners, APEG services also include Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) staff and services focused on keeping American manufacturing competitive. As part of Ohio MEP, APEG serves 27 counties.
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