State, Monroe County talk education, broadband projects

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Bryn Stepp, southeast regional liaison for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, speaks with the Monroe County commissioners Monday about workforce education opportunities and the effort to bring more broadband internet access to the rural regions of Ohio.

WOODSFIELD — Workforce education opportunities and the need for internet access were among the issues under discussion when Bryn Stepp, southeast regional liaison for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, visited the Monroe County Commissioners to hear more about the needs and issues facing the county.

Commissioners Tim Price, Mick Schumacher and Carl Davis updated her last week on several matters to bring to Columbus.

“The reason I contacted your office was just to reach out and find out what’s going on in Monroe County and see if there’s any way our office is able to assist … and answer any questions you might have,” she said.

Stepp informed the commissioners about a technical credit program.

“We’ve been working really hard, reaching out to employers,” she said, adding that $30 million has been placed in the biennium budget for employers to increase the credentials of incumbent workers and new hires. “The money is to pay for training in tech-related fields. … If you have any business owners that you interact with, I would recommend telling them about this program, because it’s a way to get employees trained for free.”

She said $30,000 is available per company and $2,000 per employee. The website is techcred.ohio.gov

“It must be in a tech-related field with some sort of credential or certificate,” she said, adding the course must be short-term, at 12 months or less. “It’s a popular program and we still have a lot of money in that fund. The first round is closed, but the next round should open really soon. It’s still going to be pretty non-competitive at this point.”

Discussion then turned to the need for broadband and internet access.

“Broadband is something I hear about in just about every county,” she said. The administration in Columbus is developing a statewide broadband strategy to be in place by the first of the year.

“Ohio’s never had one, and it’s been really detrimental,” she said.

“That will enable entities to apply for funds such as the Connect America funds,” she said. The lack of a plan means an automatic 20-point deduction when applying for funding. “Ohio has been at a disadvantage and not gotten its fair share of Connect America funds in part because we haven’t had a statewide broadband plan, but having a statewide broadband plan in place will serve as a benefit,” she added.

She said the state-maintained interstate highways were valuable in leveraging with internet providers.

“They are willing to make some deals to get access to that land along the state highways,” she said.

“These aren’t silver bullets that are going to solve the problem, but little by little,” she said.

“We have a wireless broadband that hits a lot of our hilltops,” Davis said. “It’s through (Tri-County Community Action of Guernsey, Monroe, Noble Counties). … They have used a lot of federal grants to further broadband. … It helps a lot.”

“We still have people that take their kid to McDonald’s to do their homework,” Davis said.


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