Updated Wed, Jun 5, 2013 8:31 am
Earl Gohl, Co-Chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission, says when it comes to economic development, it’s all about sustainability.
Gohl visited Athens on Tuesday as the capstone speaker for the Second Annual Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference: Shale and Beyond. The conference was open to the public and consisted of business professionals, local government officials and developers who discussed the short and long-term effects of the shale gas industry in the region.
Gohl, who works with the state to get investment funds for Appalachian communities for economic development, concluded the day's event by discussing the importance of focusing not just on development, but sustainable economic developments throughout the region.
Discussing the impacts of the gas industry was one appealing aspect of the conference, Gohl said.
“Ohio University today and the Voinovich Center have really done great work here by sort of setting the table; by bringing folks together so that you can have the conversation in Ohio about how do you move forward? How do you make sure that the communities are protected in the long-term?” he said.
According to Gohl, that’s one of the challenges of extraction industries.
“They do propose challenges. They provide opportunities, but they also pose challenges. Some might say the history of the timber industry and the history of the coal industry is a reminder to think about how development occurs and how do Ohioans move forward in a way that’s beneficial to communities in the long run,” he said.
Gohl says one way communities can do that is through food.
Though the conference brought Gohl to the region, he took it as an opportunity to visit local food initiatives such as the Chesterhill Produce Auction, Green Edge Gardens and Federal Hocking Middle School to talk about the influence local food systems have on providing sustainable development in Appalachia.
“Our work is really focused on developing local human resource assets of communities. We work with folks so they have the expertise and the ability and capital to not wait for someone to create a job for them, but so they can create a job and add their own value to their communities. Local food systems really provide a great opportunity for that type of activity,” he said.
However, that’s not to say Gohl isn’t a supporter of extraction industries in Appalachia. He says it’s all about making sure development occurs responsibly, through planning and conversation.
The conference attempted to do just that as panel discussions occurred about the various aspects of economic development through the shale gas industry. These include education and workforce development, community impacts, capturing wealth, jobs and economic development, and policy and environmental impact.
The conference was put on by OU’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.