BUCKEYE LAKE – Fairfield County Commissioner and Buckeye Lake Marina owner Dave Levacy hopes nearly $300,000 in federal aid will have a measurably meaningful effect on the Buckeye Lake region as it weathers an economic recession caused by the reduced lake level as the State of Ohio replaces the lake’s 4.1-mile earthen dam. “I just want to see sort of effective use that will produce a good outcome,” Levacy said.
Monday, US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced $150,000 in federal funding to help local government officials and local business owners impacted by lower water levels in the Buckeye Lake region achieve long-term economic recovery. Brown urged the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to approve funding – for which the Perry County Commissioners applied – to fund an economic recovery coordinator to help the impacted communities in Perry, Licking, and Fairfield counties address the long-term economic impact of the low water levels.
Additionally, the Ohio Development Services Agency will match the grant with another $150,000 in state funds for a total of $300,000 in aid.
Perry County Commissioner Jim O’Brien emphasized it was a collaborative effort between Perry, Licking, and Fairfield county officials with help from Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).
“This grant will provide a needed boost to Buckeye Lake small business owners who have gone through a difficult time,” Portman said. “We worked hard to bring this grant to the community and help those affected by the low water levels. During my recent visit to Buckeye Lake, it was clear that we must come together to help the region through this challenging time and I’ll continue to look to ways to assist at the federal level.”
“When communities face the economic setbacks like the situation at Buckeye Lake, it is important that they have the resources they need to make it through tough times,” Brown said. “This award will allow Perry, Licking, and Fairfield counties to plan for and coordinate local response during dam construction at Buckeye Lake. The recovery coordinator is key to helping local businesses cope with downturn and get back on their feet.”
Perry County Economic Development Director Tom Johnson said Portman and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH-15th District) urged him to look into federal funding similar to what was granted Wilmington, Ohio, when the massive DHL shipping company left town, taking nearly 10,000 jobs with it in 2008. “Perry County was eligible to apply,” Johnson said, because it was the most economically distressed by the dam replacement of the three counties surrounding Buckeye Lake. The grant money, however, will be used for all three counties’ benefit.
Johnson said some of the money would be used for an economic adjustment coordinator and other consultants to help lake area businesses rebrand themselves and learn to survive during the next five years as the dam is replaced and the lake remains at low pool, severely limiting recreation on the lake.
Johnson said the Buckeye Lake Region Chamber of Commerce will be strongly involved as the grant will help fund long and short-term community planning in an effort to keep Buckeye Lake a tourist destination.