Ohio Rural Communities Gain Millions in Opportunity Through New State Funding

The recently enacted state of Ohio operating budget passed by the Ohio General Assembly contained $135 Million in funding targeting development opportunities in rural counties throughout the state.  Ohio’s rural based economic development program center on infrastructure development and rural company growth.

Rural Industrial Park Loan Program. $30 Million was provided for the Rural Industrial Park Loan Program (“RIPL”) which promotes economic development by providing low-interest direct loans to assist eligible applicants in financing the development and improvement of industrial parks and related off-site public infrastructure improvements.  Eligible applicants include counties, municipalities, townships, non-profit organizations, port authorities, community improvement corporations, and private developers willing to develop and improve industrial parks in rural areas of the state.  

Eligible rural areas include distressed, labor surplus and situational distressed counties as defined by the Ohio Revised Code as illustrated by the map above. The loan may be used to finance up to 75% of allowable project costs with loan amounts from $500,000 to $2,500,000.  A minimum of 10% equity contribution from the borrower is required.  At least 50% of the outstanding loan balance may be forgiven upon successful completion of the project as described in the application and loan agreement.  Non-refundable $1,500 application fee is due upon submitting a completed application. If the applicant is approved for funding under the program, the application fee will be credited against the commitment fee.  Non-refundable commitment fee of at least $12,500 (based on complexity of deal) is due upon receipt of a signed loan approval, confirmation and commitment letter.  Annual servicing fee equal to ¼ of 1% (.25%) of the outstanding principal amount of the loan is pro-rated and payable monthly after closing of the loan.

Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program.  $135 Million in additional funding was added by the Ohio General Assembly through the state operating budget bill for the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program which supports telecommunications broadband funding to internet service providers to fund the construction of broadband projects in unserved and underserved areas of the state. The areas eligible for this program are primarily in rural communities across Ohio. The program is administered by BroadbandOhio, a division of the Ohio Department of Development. Grants are provided to internet service providers to help with the cost of expanding into unserved and underserved areas of Ohio. The grants are designed to help with the infrastructure costs of the project and help build the networks in areas that a lack high-speed internet. The grants will cover the “broadband funding gap,” which is the difference between the total amount of money a broadband provider calculates is necessary to construct the last mile of a specific broadband network and the total amount of money that the provider has determined is the maximum amount of money that is cost effective for the provider to invest in last mile construction for that network.

Eligible projects should provide service access of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload to residences in areas that do not have a provider that can supply that speed. Areas that have less than 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload are considered unserved, areas that have between 10 Mbps and 25 Mbps download and 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps upload are considered tier one areas. Eligible areas for these grants are outlined in the map below.

In March of 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced new broadband expansion projects that will make affordable, high-speed internet available to nearly 100,000 households in Ohio that currently don’t have access to reliable internet connectivity.  The Broadband Expansion Authority authorized BroadbandOhio to award more than $232 million in grants to 11 internet service providers as part of the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program. The funding will be used to cover the “broadband funding gap” associated with 33 broadband expansion projects impacting 31 counties. Ohio’s additional funding for rural industrial parks and broadband illustrated the state’s support for developing critical infrastructure in rural communities.