$36M sought for Clark, Champaign projects, including drone research

About half a dozen Clark and Champaign County entities have filed requests seeking a total of nearly $36.5 million in potential federal funding, include $15 million to make Springfield a hub of drone research and manufacturing.

Other projects seeking funding range from a countywide emergency dispatch center to a museum expansion.

The Dayton Development Coalition has opened the public comment period for submissions to the Priority Development Advocacy Committee process. Residents can comment on the projects until Dec. 8.

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The process prioritizes which projects to push for as a region when government funding sources or grants become available, said Shannon Joyce Neal, a spokeswoman for the development coalition.

“It’s an opportunity for groups in the community to present their projects to a wide cross-section of people in the community and have them evaluated,” Neal said. “It allows elected officials to say, ‘This is a project that’s been vetted by the community, it has widespread support.’”

Projects seeking funding locally include a request from the Wright State Research Institute for $15 million to study beyond the line of sight technologies at the UAS Test Center in Springfield. The project, if funded, is expected to retain between 50 and 100 jobs and could create between 250 and 500 direct jobs in the next two years, according to the application.

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The funding for the total $22 million project would be used by the Air Force Research Laboratories for research and development for drones and other advanced technologies.

In 2016, the Air Force Research Laboratories and the state of Ohio pledged to invest a total of $5 million into equipment at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, allowing businesses and researchers to test unmanned aerial vehicles beyond the line of sight.

The goal, if funded, is to make Springfield and the region a hub for drone manufacturing and research, said Dennis Andersh, executive director of the Wright State Research Institute.

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“What we’re trying to do is bring universities and businesses across the state to fly unmanned aerial systems out at the Springfield test center,” Andersh said. “But it’s also to develop the aerospace technology to support the personal air vehicles and logistics delivery vehicles to keep lifting Ohio to be No. 1 in aerospace going forward.”

Other projects proposed locally include:

• A request for $989,000 from the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana as part of a larger $2.3 million project. The museum is asking for funding for an expansion for additional educational, workshop and hangar space.

• A $5 million request from Clark State Community College for a renovation of the Brinkman Educational Center in downtown Springfield. The upgrades would allow the facility to serve as a one-stop-shop for local and regional job training.

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• A request for $6 million from Clark County to build a multi-purpose facility at the Clark County Fairgrounds. The project would allow the county to attract larger shows and events to bring investment to Clark County, according to the application.

• A $2.5 million request for renovations at the Clark State Performing Arts Center and Conference Center. The money would be used for renovations to the 24-year-old facility, and allow for construction of a covered walkway between the PAC and the nearby Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center.

• A request for $4 million to assist with the development of a countywide emergency dispatch center in Clark County.

• A request for $3 million, as part of a larger $4.25 million project for improvements along South Limestone Street. The project would reconfigure the intersection and traffic signal at South Limestone Street and Leffel Lane, and add landscaping to areas along the I-70 interchange with South Limestone Street.

Once the public comment period is completed, the projects will be reviewed and ranked by panels in areas including defense, economic development, hospitals and health care, and quality of life. A full PDAC committee, made up of 25 local officials from business, education and local government, will complete a final review of the projects and make recommendations later this spring, Neal said.

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