PIKETON, Ohio – One of the keys to the economic future of Appalachian Ohio lies in partnerships between Ohio State University; regional business leaders; and local, state and federal officials. University President E. Gordon Gee observed efforts being made toward that end during a visit to OSU South Centers as part of his tour of Ohio.
Gee toured the facility recently to learn more about how agricultural, economic, community development, natural resources and aquaculture programs are benefiting the region. The stop is part of Gee's goal of visiting Ohio's 88 counties during his first year as president.
"It's arrogant to think that you know your state and your university by sitting in your office," said Gee, addressing a crowd of about 100 who attended the OSU South Centers program. "These visits are intended for me to reacquaint myself with my colleagues and to thank the citizens of this state. One does not return without being invited and I was invited back. I have been given a remarkable opportunity."
Gee returned to Ohio State last fall to become the 14th president of the university, after spending the past seven years as Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. He is one of the nation's longest serving college presidents, having led five different institutions. He also served as president of Ohio State from 1990-1997.
During the Piketon program, Gee spent time with administrators of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, business leaders, government officials and faculty, staff and students to share in the successes of OSU South Centers since its opening in 1991.
"South Centers serves the mission of the university to enhance the economic development of southern Ohio. OSU has had a growing presence in Piketon since we opened in 1991," said Tom Worley, director of OSU South Centers. "Some of the programs that we've added over the years have included designating a small business development center for the region; establishing the Ohio Cooperative Development Center, a rural program that brings groups together; expanding the presence of the aquaculture industry; building the Endeavor Center; and moving innovations into commercialization through the entrepreneurial signature program."
Ohio State Rep. David Daniels said he never misses the chance to inform the public how important Ohio State University's footprint has been in the state.
"Agriculture in southern Ohio is a big deal," said Daniels. "We need to continue to work to find solutions, to help people become more profitable."
Ohio Sen. John Carey agreed.
"We have an asset in Ohio State University in the ability to overcome the challenges we face today with issues, such as the current energy woes, and finding ways to develop new products in agriculture and beyond agriculture," said Carey.
Gee pledged to the crowd the university's commitment of continuing to make a difference throughout Ohio's communities by capitalizing on the values, strong workforce and deep connection people have with Ohio State University.
"We are The Ohio State University," said Gee. "We belong to every citizen of this state."
CFAES Dean Bobby Moser, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center Director Steve Slack, and OSU Extension Director Keith Smith attended the event. Also in attendance were Pike County Commissioners Harry Rider and Teddy West; Teddy Wheeler, Pike County Auditor; Don Branson, executive director of the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation (SOACDF); Greg Simonton of the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI); and Nan Cahall, district director for U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.