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Annual State of the Region Conference highlights placemaking as an economic development strategy

The 11th annual Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference brought together public officials, economic development experts and leaders throughout the 32-county region to discuss issues pertaining to economic growth in rural Ohio. 

The conference, held Tuesday, May 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Baker University Center Ballroom, reached in-person attendance capacity weeks before the event and also offered virtual programming. The annual event is sponsored by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service Economic Development Administration University Center. This year’s event featured more than 15 speakers who discussed the role of placemaking in economic development and examined opportunities and challenges for economic growth in our communities. 

"This year’s annual conference focused on placemaking and reimagining rural economies,” said Jason Jolley, master of public administration director at the Voinovich School. “We’re excited to share the innovative practices used by communities across Appalachian Ohio to revitalize their downtowns, build their workforce, and enhance the quality of life for citizens.”

The speakers provided insights from their experiences in organizations such as JobsOhio, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, among several others. 

The event’s itinerary consisted of four sessions: Quality of Life in Our Region, Building Appalachia’s Workforce, Economic Impact of Community Events, and Revitalizing Downtown Districts, all of which encompassed the year’s theme.

A speaker gives a presentation at the State of the Region Conference
Photo by Dylan Townsend

Kathy Zook, ARC program manager for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, has been a part of the planning for the State of the Region conference since its inception and served as a moderator for the Building Appalachia’s Workforce session.

“The conference never fails to energize me with the wealth of collaboration, knowledge, and success stories as well as areas we need to improve upon,” Zook said. “The conference brings together the public and private sector that inspires us to leave with new and fresh ideas to improve our communities and shine a light on the unique culture of Appalachia as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The Appalachian Ohio State of the Region Conference is part of the Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration University Center project and is supported by Ohio Southeast Economic Development, Appalachian Partnership Inc., Buckeye Hills Regional Council, Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

For more information about the conference visit

May 26, 2023
Lauren Serge