State briefs – April 8

Staff report

OHIO DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ACCEPTING SPECIALTY CROP GRANT PROPOSALS – The Ohio Department of Agriculture is now accepting proposals for the 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which will provide funding for projects to enhance the competitiveness of crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and nursery crops.

Grant funding is provided by the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service. The deadline for on-line grant proposal submissions is June 3 at 4 p.m. Grants will range from a minimum of $25,000 to a maximum of $150,000. In addition, all applicants must provide a minimum match of 25 percent of the requested grant amount.

Project proposals are sought that will advance the long-term economic viability of the state’s specialty crop industry, while increasing the marketability of specialty crops. Higher rankings will be given to projects that demonstrate profit potential for growers and that could boost employment opportunities in the specialty crop industry.

Food and agricultural non-profit organizations, associations or commodity groups, universities and research institutions are eligible to submit specialty crop proposals.

For more information, available forms, or a copy of the request for proposals, visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website at

BBB GIVES SPARK AWARDS – Better Business Bureau (BBB) and BBB’s Center for Character Ethics, in partnership with CivicHacks, honored three organizations with the inaugural Spark Award at the Startup Storytellers event on April 6.

The recipient companies were selected by an independent panel after reviewing their entries based on the entry criteria and in coordination with the Torch Awards for Ethics TRUST! Principles. The recipients of the 2016 Spark Awards are: A & R Creative, Compton Construction, and Griffen Hollow Studio. The recipients were recognized during the Startup Storytellers event at the Columbus Museum of Art.

The Spark Awards is a new component of BBB’s Center for Character Ethics Torch Awards for Ethics program. The award recognizes millennial entrepreneurial organizations whose leaders demonstrate a high level of character, generating a culture that is authentic about its mission, and connects with community.

“We are delighted to play a role in highlighting these inspiring entrepreneurs that are working to make our community great with their commitment to character, culture and community. Partnering with CivicHacks on the Spark Awards is an important collaboration within the entrepreneurial community,” said Kip Morse, President & CEO of BBB serving Central Ohio.

“These young entrepreneurs demonstrate excellence every single day by thinking about the role they play at the top of their ever-growing organization, and how their actions affect the greater mission. If there was ever any doubt that millennial entrepreneurs are making a significant impact in the community, the winners of the Spark Awards have put that notion to rest,” continues David All, Founder of CivicHacks.

For more information on the Spark Awards and the 2016 recipients, please visit

NEW CHIEF OF STAFF IS ANNOUNCED – The Ohio Treasurer’s office announced that Kevin Benacci, Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director for U.S. Congressman David Joyce (OH-14), has been tapped as the office’s new Chief of Staff. Benacci will take over for current Chief of Staff Michael Lord.

Lord, who has served with Treasurer Mandel since his days in the State Legislature, is leaving the Treasurer’s office to start a consulting firm. Benacci has served Congressman Joyce for over three years as his Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director and District Outreach Director. He is a native Ohioan who grew up in Northeast Ohio.

“I’m grateful for Michael’s years of counsel and service and thank him for all he’s done for the office and Ohio taxpayers,” said Treasurer Mandel. “As we continue to advance our goals of government transparency and fiscal responsibility, Kevin is a capable leader who will build upon the many successes of the Treasurer’s office over the past five years.”

Benacci’s first day in the Treasurer’s office will be April 18 and Lord’s final day will be May 5. During that time frame Benacci and Lord will conduct a transition.

CATHOLIC CHARITIES HOSTS IMMIGRATION PRESENTATION – A free informational meeting on immigration policies and processes, lunch and children’s activities will be held Sunday, April 10, following the noon Mass at S.S. Peter & Paul Church, 738 S. St. Clair St., Toledo.

Staff report