Voinovich School to develop an economic development strategic plan for the city of Belpre

Emily Delaney
March 10, 2017

The Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce has asked the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs to develop an Economic Development Strategic Plan for the city of Belpre. The project will be funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Appalachian New Economy Partnership, a program of the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the state of Ohio.

“Belpre is delighted to have the Voinovich School and its team undertake this extremely important study and we look forward to the economic development strategic plan that will result,” Bob McCloy, chairman of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee, said.

The project is made possible by the Voinovich School’s participation in the Rural Universities Consortium University Center, a partnership between Ohio University and Bowling Green State University that is a designated U.S. EDA University Center. The University Center program connects local governments and organizations with the resources and expertise of nearby colleges and universities to promote economic development.  

“With the new cycle of funding for our U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center program, we are hoping to help more communities within our Appalachian footprint with economic development efforts. These efforts can not only help lay a roadmap for sustainable economic growth for communities to implement, but also foster regional collaboration, innovation, and enhance student applied research and learning,” Dr. Gilbert Michaud, a co-principal investigator on the project and adjunct assistant professor at the Voinovich School, said.

The plan will address a number of areas in order to create a stronger community through economic development. One of the first steps will be to conduct a demographic and economic scan of Belpre and the surrounding region to compile information on unemployment rates, income and labor markets. “This scan will help the city of Belpre and our researchers better understand how the community links to key industries within the broader regional economy and identify assets to support and capitalize on those emerging opportunities in those industries,” Dr. Jason Jolley, an Assistant Professor of Economic Development and Director of the EDA University Center at the Voinovich School, said.

“Coming from industry and a maintenance background, I do understand the importance of getting out in front of the issues we know will hinder growth and a welcoming atmosphere,” Belpre Mayor Michael Lorentz said.

Voinovich School students will interview local business owners, government officials and community members to gain better understanding of barriers to and opportunities for growth in the region. Further, the School will conduct public meetings in Belpre to present findings and receive feedback from the community. A community meeting to engage in economic development priorities is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 at the Belpre City Hall City Council Meeting Room. Members of the community are encouraged to attend and share their priorities and vision for Belpre’s future.

A final report will be presented to the community in April 2017.