The BOBCAT (Building Opportunities Beyond Coal Accelerating Transition) Network Conducted in partnership with the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC), this two-year, this EDA-funded project seeks to accelerate the region’s transition out of the coal economy via entrepreneurial growth, workforce development, cluster expansion, opportunity zone enhancement, and identification of infrastructure investment needs. To achieve this goal, we have targeted 12 counties in southern Ohio to assist with economic recovery efforts related to the closure of two Dayton Power & Light coal-fired power plants in Adams County, brownfield recovery in Scioto County, coal supply chain and workforce analysis in Lawrence County, and regionwide efforts to support workforce, economic, and community development.


The RISE Ohio (Resilience Initiative for Southeastern and Eastern Ohio) is a U.S. EDA Assistance to Coal Communities program initiative led by Ohio University’s Voinovich School, BHRC, and OMEGA focused on economic diversification; Opportunity Zone planning, development, and investment; and assistance to communities impacted by coal fired power plant closures.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council (BHRC) is a council of governments established in 1968 and serves the counties of Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry and Washington in rural Appalachian Ohio. Buckeye Hills administers funding from multiple State and Federal sources in the areas of community and economic development, transportation planning and aging services in order to address the needs of member communities.

The Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (OMEGA) is a council of governments also established in 1968 and serves the counties of Belmont, Coshocton, Columbiana, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Muskingum, and Tuscarawas in eastern Appalachian Ohio. OMEGA provides opportunities in economic and community development through networking, education, planning, research, and allocation of resources and is a Regional Transportation Planning Organization for eight of the ten counties.  OMEGA’s mission is to provide a pathway to enhance community and economic growth in the region.

Project Description

Given the proliferation of Opportunity Zones, the most competitive Opportunity Zones across the nation generally offer additional investment incentives (e.g. TIF, SID, JEDD or other credits) and wrap-around services such as workforce development training, educational access, small business development services, etc. Additionally, the optimal Opportunity Zones in our regions will be near the communities most heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the decline in the coal industry.


Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed by Congress on March 27, 2020 are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain non- profits and other employers

Appalachian Ohio Skillshed Analysis

This project set the stage for the BOBCAT Network by focusing on four Appalachian Ohio areas where jobs are being lost due to the closure of coal mines and / or coal-fired power plants. With funding from the U.S. EDA, the Voinovich School developed an innovative method to identify similarities and gaps between local workers’ existing skills, pay, and educational opportunities to those needed to effectively capitalize on emerging industries and occupational opportunities.