Visiting Professor to Speak at ARC Conference

Hannah Ticoras
November 6, 2013

david wilhelm

Each year the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) -- an agency for economic development representing a partnership between federal, state, and local governments -- holds a conference discussing the state of development in the region.

Ohio University alumnus and visiting professor at the Voinovich School David Wilhelm will be the keynote speaker for this year's event, titled "Toward Prosperity: Entrepreneurship Transforming Appalachia's Economy." Wilhelm has a resume that more than warrants his prestigious speaking position: he is the owner of Woodland Venture Management and a partner of Hopewell Ventures, Adena Ventures, and New Harvest Ventures. These organizations invest money into start-up businesses in developing areas -- such as Appalachia. Wilhelm will speak about the ways that government and entrepreneurs can work together to build the economy.

Wilhelm sees the high amount of entrepreneurship in Athens as a model for what other Appalachian towns can do. He cited Rural Action, ACEnet, and the Voinovich School as entities that are doing work to transform the region with entrepreneurship.

Discussing the efforts of the individuals at the Voinovich School specifically, Wilhelm said, "It's not the financial wizardry [of Wall Street], it's the actual hard work. The folks that work on this stuff are business builders"

An example of the type of regional transformation these companies are involved in is Turning Point Solar -- a solar development project New Harvest Ventures is working on in Noble County. Wilhelm is a founding partner of New Harvest Ventures and a main advisor on the solar project. The plant will be built on reclaimed mine land, using the industrial infrastructure from the time the land was used for mining. Along with reusing old land, most of the job creation will be local. The money and personnel saving techniques are great news for Noble County, one of the Ohio counties with the highest unemployment rate at 9.3 (August 2013).

"Government support for very early stage investment funds, government support for entrepreneurship training and government support for the creation of angel funds is not that expensive, and it builds a platform that permits the private sector to exist fruitfully," Wilhelm said.

Other representatives from Ohio at the conference include Leslie Schaller, director of programs at ACEnet in Athens, and Perry Varnadoe, director of the Meigs County Economic Development Office in Pomeroy. Both will serve as panelists at the conference: Schaller on the "Cultivating Entrepreneurs in the Food and Farm Sector" panel and Varnadoe on "Survive and Thrive." Other panels at the conference include "Access to Capital," introducing strategies for garnering investors in Appalachia, and "Make it Appalachia," discussing the possible resurgence of manufacturing in Appalachia. The conference will be held November 6-7 in Charleston, W. Va.