The extraction of Appalachian Ohio's natural resources has helped create wealth and prosperity in many parts of the state and nation, yet the region itself has continued to struggle with persistent poverty.
Now, new technologies for accessing oil and gas from shale are placing the region at the center of another energy boom. As the group rises to the challenge of providing the resources needed to power the country, they must also rise to the unprecedented opportunity to extract prosperity and lasting wealth for this region's citizens and communities.
People can learn a great deal about today's opportunity from the region's past. Many Appalachian Ohio communities were created by natural resource extraction.
The mining of coal, iron ore, and clay produced jobs, attracting people to settle in the region. During these early energy booms, communities were emerging.
They had not yet developed charitable foundations or economic-development organizations to retain a portion of the income flowing through their communities for reinvestment in the communities' wellbeing. When the income produced by extraction began to dry up, communities lacked resources to prepare for a new future.
Appalachian Ohio's experience with shale development can be dramatically different. Their region is now home to strong philanthropic, economic-development, educational, and social-service organizations. These organizations are well-positioned to retain and reinvest shale-development wealth.
Further, there are many examples of regions across the United States that have leveraged extractive industry resources to create sustained prosperity for their citizens and communities. While already experiencing success in building lasting resources from shale wealth, much more can be done.
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio believe it is within the collective potential to leverage shale development resources to fundamentally transform the region's quality of life, not just for today, but for generations to come. While it does not have all of the answers, it understands success will require vision, strategy, and collaboration.
It is time to start serious discussions regarding how the region can benefit long-term from today's energy boom. Over the coming months, the foundation will gather and share ideas on this topic, to culminate in a public discussion regarding what it learns. Ideas and suggestions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cara Dingus Brook is the president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, a regional community foundation partnering with donors to enrich the current and future quality of life for the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio.