The Three C's of Troy Balderson: communication, connections and community
Washington, August 29, 2023
This article appeared in the Coshocton Tribune.
Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) has spent the August recess touring his district and making various stops, including a recent roundtable discussion with Coshocton County officials and local stakeholders.
Balderson represents the 12th District of Licking, Fairfield, Knox, Muskingum, Coshocton, Guernsey, Morgan, Perry and Athens counties, as well as portions of Delaware, Holmes and Tuscarawas counties. He currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This includes the energy, climate and grid; environmental, manufacturing and critical minerals; and communications and technology subcommittees.
The three C's of Troy Balderson are communication, connection and community. They play into what he's working on, what he finds important and how to get things done on Capital Hill. He knows the Intel chip plant being constructed in Licking County is the shiny object everyone has their eyes on, but there is much more across the district he and others can't lose focus on.
"We've got to get to these people who have been here 30 to 50 years and gone through the pandemic and start dealing with some of the struggles they've had. But, also to thank them and tell them how grateful we are that they're here and employing our community. We want to make sure they have reassurances that if they have a need they can reach out to us," Balderson said.
Funding for community projects is critical
One topic Balderson communicated clearly is how what was once known as earmarks are now being called community projects, which he feels more closely explains what they are and will hopefully get citizens to understand their importance. It's not extra taxes, but getting money already available to where it's needed.
An example of a local community project close to funding finalization is $255,000 to the Coshocton County Engineer's Office to act as a 20% match for a $1.25 million paving project. The rest of the money is coming from a County Surface Transportation Program grant for the resurfacing of County Road 16 in 2026. It was last paved in 2015.
"The majority of people get glued to Fox or CNN or whatever and hear 'earmarks' and say 'they're spending our money, they're blowing it on their little projects.' It's not our projects. It's community projects," Balderson said. "Every community project is money we get for our communities that goes directly there now. It can't go to an agency and sit there in a pot of money. It goes directly to the community it's been designated for."
Rural broadband 'going in the right direction'
One of Balderson's subcommittees is dealing with rural broadband and expanding wireless technology. He said a focus now is to improve mapping accuracy so they know where broadband access is and where it's needed. They're also dealing with changes to pole attachment policies for equipment and partnering with utility co-ops who have experience getting needed services, like electricity, to rural areas.
"There has been some movement in the broadband world. More so than I've seen since I've been in the state legislature. That's important and I think we're going in the right direction," Balderson said.
Coshocton County Commissioners are in the middle of a $5 million broadband project with Ohio TT to give 15,000 residents broadband internet access via American Rescue Plan Act dollars. Other entities, like Spectrum, are also doing similar work in the county. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how vital internet access is in a variety of areas. Balderson knows specific stories of how folks had to deal with the lack of access hits people hard.
"One of the things the pandemic discovered was outreach and lack of outreach we have here. We carried several pieces of legislation dealing with telehealth, giving people who lived in rural communities the ability to do a hospital or doctor's visit on their computer. But, there was a struggle there because they didn't have the connectivity to do that," he said. "The education piece is another. We had students in the congressional district who their parents had to take them to a school building and sit in the parking lot so they had the connectivity to do their homework."
Downtown revitalization is 'fantastic'
Balderson recently toured the Selby Building, which is in the middle of a revitalization project by Our Town Coshocton. The goal is to finish needed work and to move in new tenants. Three possible ones have been identified in Standard Power, Central Ohio Technical College and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.
Balderson is trying to find funding for work and also connect OTC Executive Director Lanny Spaulding with developmental partners across his congressional district.
Another connection example is getting Tiffany Swigert, executive director of the Coshocton Port Authority, in talks with other communities who have dealt with lack of housing, which Swigert sees as a big issue with the economic upswing of the area and new people moving in.
"That's one of the biggest things we do," Balderson said of making those district-wide connections.
Along with the downtown revitalization, Balderson is also encouraged by the Conesville Industrial Park taking shape where the American Electric Power plant once stood. He knows what the power plant meant to people inside and outside Coshocton and the area being reborn for industrial use is a major success.
"There's a lot of revitalization going on in Downtown Coshocton and that's going on throughout the 12th Congressional District. There's a lot of revitalization in the downtown areas of these communities. I think it's fantastic," Balderson said.
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