MANSFIELD, Ohio -- The Richland County Foundation (RCF) is investing $1.1 million in a five-year plan to address local business retention and expansion, workforce development and entrepreneurship, according to Foundation President Brady Groves.
“This is truly an opportunity to alter the economic development landscape in our area,” Groves said. “We want to invest in and partner with existing economic development organizations to encourage a new community development strategy that nurtures greater collaboration.”
The RCF engaged JumpStart Inc. to lead this new effort along with a consortium that includes Team NEO and New Growth Group. All three organizations specialize in economic development and/or workforce development.
Proactive grant making is new to the RCF. Since it was founded in 1945, the Foundation has been fostering philanthropy, accepting applications for funding from local nonprofits and awarding grants totaling more than $69 million.
“By embarking on such a robust economic development plan, the Foundation is re-imaging its role in our community,” said Richland County Commissioner Marilyn John.
The Foundation has had many funding requests over the past few years from economic development organizations, but the effectiveness of those programs has been difficult to measure and often are not linked to local organizations doing similar work.
“Having a multi-year and multi-tiered investment plan created to foster economic development is new for us and rare for a community foundation our size,” Groves said. “We are not the economic developers. However, while recognizing the valuable work already underway in the community, our Board of Trustees has decided to commit financial resources for the development and implementation of a long-term strategic plan."
The strategic plan called Richland Partnership includes:
- The centralization of business retention and expansion and workforce development efforts.
- A scale-up program to identify and target services to area companies to address specific challenges and catalyze growth.
- Empowering existing organizations to promote entrepreneurship and related services across the county.
- A community website to serve as an economic performance dashboard to track successes and show progress toward important goals of the new plan.
“It is vital to the RCF that the initiatives are linked to tangible success metrics to ensure outcomes for the county,” said RCF Board Chairman John C. Roby. “The project will evolve and be adapted as the plan’s objectives are met, or not, over the next few years.”
Richland County Job and Family Services is investing $50,000 in the workforce development portion of the project.
“The project will strengthen partnerships between the county and its overall workforce development stakeholders and help to identify training gaps focused on tangible outcomes,” said RCJFS Executive Director Sharlene Neumann.
The Ohio Economic Development Association recognized the Foundation as a runner-up for the Excellence in Economic Development Innovation Award during its annual summit in Columbus last week.
In addition, other community foundations in the United States have heard about the RCF project and are considering similar endeavors.
The economic development investment strategy is one of three significant RCF initiatives established this year by the Foundation. The RCF devoted more than $125,000 in two nonprofit capacity building projects the Osborne Meese Academy and Richland Gives.
The Osborne Meese Academy began in Jan. with 20 nonprofit organizations to provide education, professional support and grant writing assistance.
To further assist nonprofit agencies, RCF will host a day of giving called Richland Gives on Dec. 1. It is designed to encourage everyone to contribute to local nonprofits through a single giving website. The goals of the day are to build capacity, grow philanthropy and make the community stronger.