Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin gave updates on the workforce development that Greenfield has been working on for about a year-and-a-half at the Wednesday meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners. He said the group, called the Highland County Think Tank, including local schools, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and the economic development office, was developed to bridge the gap between the workforce and the schools.
Wilkin said since that was developed, they’ve created a new project called Alignment of Community Connections for Employer and Student Success (ACCESS), with Tim Dettwiller planned to be the director.
He said they created a workforce leadership council in Highland County that includes Dr. Nicole Roades from Southern State Community College (SSCC), people from Highland County Community Action Organization, Wilkin, Julie Bolender, Jamie Wheeler and the Southern Ohio Education Development Center (SOEDC).
Wilkin said the program doesn’t just affect high school study. He said it also affects young adults, which is why they are partnering with SSCC.
“I’m excited about that because it’s going to provide opportunity for us to develop a well-skilled workforce that’s ready for the businesses who need them here in Highland County,” Wilkin said. “That’s one of our main goals.”
Commissioner Terry Britton said the workforce development team will fit in with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding coming in. He said if everyone can work together, it can be made into a “pretty permanent” thing.
Wilkin said that when Lt. Gov. Jon Husted came to town, he spoke to Husted about the work Greenfield was doing on its workforce. Wilkin said that he told Husted that they would be seeing an application from Highland County regarding workforce development.
Britton said that within around 30 days, they should have an idea concerning the application, but that the education and workforce development would fit well.
In other Greenfield news, Wilkin said the city continues to move forward with its facade improvement program. He said if someone drives through Greenfield right now, they will see the fake facades put up over buildings around the 1980s or possibly earlier.
Wilkin those have been taken down and that there were some cool windows that were exposed that people didn’t know existed on their building. He said, because of that, some business owners decided to instead leave those windows exposed because it brought back character to their building.
He also said that currently, he’s in a 30-day span where he’s done nine grand openings in Greenfield for new businesses. He said a business incubator opened in the downtown area and it’s already full.
“Good things are happening in Greenfield and we’re excited and very thankful for, I say this all the time,” Wilkin said. “We’re thankful for the entrepreneurs. We, as a government, don’t create the business. We can create the environment that’s attractive to a business, but it’s the entrepreneur who takes the risk to step out and start that adventure. So, we’re thankful for them and I want to be very supportive of their efforts.”
In other news, commissioner Jeff Duncan said the board traveled to Columbus on Tuesday for a bill signing that would bring $500 million into the Appalachia region, with Highland County being one of the counties seeing some of those benefits. He said they will work to stay in touch with the people involved to see what’s going on and that there will be more to come. He also said they hope for a big collaboration with the villages on projects. Duncan said they contacted neighboring counties while in Columbus and that the county would be willing to work with them on projects together.
Duncan said he got the impression that for this Appalachia funding there would be a scoring process, and that more collaboration would mean a higher score. He said because of that, they’ll reach out to entities in the county and surrounding counties to see what kind of projects they could work on together.
Britton said the source of funding will include a competitive bidding process so the more they can “put together together,” the better the county will be. He also said there is a deadline for the funding similar to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, with it needing to be applied for by 2024 and spent by 2026.
Commissioner Dave Daniels said people at the meeting suggested multiple projects that could be considered for the funding like downtown revitalization, tourism and workforce development. He said there will probably be two funding rounds and then one “mini” funding round for a planning session.
Daniels said those in Columbus indicated that they should get more information in the next 30 days about what the application process might look like and how to moved forward.
In other news, Tonya Sturgill, the Highland County Probation Department director and drug court coordinator, attended the meeting to give updates on the One Ohio Opioid Settlement.
Sturgill said there have been two meetings so far concerning the settlement.
She said the first was on May 10, 2022. She said there are eight counties in their region, with six of them attending the meeting. She said this first meeting was essentially about establishing what a quorum would entail and setting ground rules. She said they elected officers and it was decided Scottie Powell would be president and Sturgill would be vice president.
Sturgill said the people at the meeting talked about the amount of money that will be going through their region. She said there would be $20.8 million coming over an 18-year period, or about $1.3 million per year. She also said there would be a second settlement that was expected to be approved that would be $4.8 million over a nine-year period.
Sturgill said the second meeting was on June 21, 2022. She said the meeting was to decide who the regional representative would be. That person would attend meetings at the state level, and Bambi Baughn from Fayette County was selected for the position.
Sturgill said a couple of agencies within the county that might get some of the funding have reached out to her. She said she told them that as she knows more information, she would share it with them.
“I think it’s going to be a long, slow, process though, honestly,” Sturgill said.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.