Clark State agricultural center could get $1M

The former South High School could house a new Food and Bioscience Training Center paid for by a $1 million earmark in the proposed state capital budget.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich unveiled the proposed state capital budget this week, which now is headed to the Statehouse. It calls for $4.2 million for Clark County projects, including the new precision agriculture program.

It is unclear what the impact of the new college program will have on Global Impact STEM Academy’s long-term plan to eventually move to South High from a temporary home on Clark State’s Leffel Lane campus.

If the bill is approved by lawmakers, the $1 million would be used to support the joint agriculture programs for Clark State Community College, Wright State University and Ohio State University, according to Clark State and state Sen. Chris Widener’s office.

“The capital bill is meant to aid students, educators and employers and connect job openings with those unemployed in our community through smart investments in facilities that meet that need,” Widener said in an emailed statement.

The agriculture program, first announced in December, was the result of employers telling Ohio State and Clark State leaders that food safety is needed by manufacturers in the region.

“Thankfully, Ohio State and Clark State are able to collaborate on this program and locate it at South High School, near an emerging pipeline of students and adults interested in these jobs,” Widener said.

The program wasn’t part of the prioritized list of projects submitted to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management by the collaborative Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission nor on a similar list from the Dayton Development Coalition.

Clark State previously announced they intended to apply for $275,000 from the state capital budget to establish the agriculture program and it would also be funded with matching dollars — $125,000 from Clark State and $120,000 in private money. South High wasn’t mentioned as a possible location for the center when the program was announced, but it was suggested that the college program would be a path for students attending Global Impact.

Global Impact Director Joshua Jennings was unaware of any capital budget money being intended for the K-12 school.

Clark State spokeswoman Jennifer Dietsch said the money won’t be used for programs associated with the STEM school at this point.

The capital budget is intended for the most pressing construction and maintenance needs of schools and other government facilities, with priority given to improvements that boost job creation and economic growth.

Several other local projects that were identified as top priorities for the region by the development coalition in December are slated to receive less than requested in the budget proposal.

“We were substantially disappointed,” said Ciara Price, legislative aide for state Rep. Ross McGregor, about the $250,000 budgeted for a downtown parking garage at Columbia Street and Fountain Avenue in Springfield.

The coalition had requested $1.5 million toward the garage, which some estimates indicate could cost more than $9 million total.

“The $250,000 obviously is not enough to push the project forward at this point,” said Tom Franzen, Springfield assistant city manager and director of economic development.

The garage and the construction of unmanned aerial vehicle hangars at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport were both in the top 10 priorities sent to the state by the development coalition covering a nine county region.

The state budget calls for $500,000 of the $1 million requested for the hangars, but the smaller budget will force the city to adjust plans and seek additional funding.

The city was hoping the parking garage could be paid for with a combination of state, county and city money. Franzen said the city ideally wanted to get $3 million from the capital budget.

Franzen said the $250,000 could help the city do some work to ready the site for construction, but it is not likely the project will move forward without additional funding sources. Local officials estimate the project could support the creation of up to 700 jobs in downtown Springfield.

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Mike McDorman said the coalition’s Priority Development and Advocacy Committee is still working with the state to find funding for the parking garage

McDorman said the parking garage would facilitate job growth downtown, but with only so much money in the budget, the state might have believed that funding the hangars and other Clark State projects would go further towards job creation in the emerging drone field. The chamber is excited to get the drone project funded.

“Even the full (amount requested) wouldn’t have gotten the parking garage done,” he said.

There is still a lot of work to be done at the old South High to make the planned Food and Bioscience Training Center a reality beyond what the $1 million state aid will pay for, McDorman said.

“That’s going to play an important role in allowing kids gain opportunities in that emerging field,” he said.

The proposed 10 hangars, including a 20,000 square foot building, would house unmanned aircraft and testing equipment overnight.

“We’re going to take a look at which of those we can still get done (with less money),” Franzen said.

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