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Stuck in dial-up age, rural Ohio still pushing for high-speed internet

A recent Dispatch article featured Terri Fetherolf of OCDCA member Vinton County Economic Development Board.

Marion Renault of The Columbus Dispatch:

“McARTHUR — Terri Fetherolf has two wishes for Vinton County: clean water and fast internet.

The first is imperative for its safety and health. “But rolling out broadband is key to our economic survival,” said Fetherolf, Vinton County’s development director.

Today, high-speed internet has become a utility as important as sewage systems, the electricity grid and highways.

But despite the internet’s tightening chokehold on technologies embedded in our pockets, homes, vehicles and public spaces, more than 1 million Ohioans have zero access to fast, reliable broadband at home.

Almost a third of Ohio’s rural residents lack home access to broadband, compared with just 2 percent of urbanites, according to Federal Communications Commission estimates. Those figures are slightly better than the national rate.

Last week, a legislative proposal to establish a $50-million-per-year broadband development grant program inched forward, fueling the hopes of advocates.”

Read the full article.

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Community Development Week starts April 2nd

Please find below information from the Ohio Development Services Agency regarding Community Development Week April 2 – 6.

The week is an excellent opportunity to highlight the successes of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Home Investments Partnerships program (HOME), and other critical community development resources.

Each year, you, our community development professionals are asked to do more with less. Through your collaborative efforts, we’ve been able to help many low- and moderate-income individuals in communities across the state.

This year marks the 32th anniversary of National Community Development Week. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your communities’ accomplishments and projects. It is an excellent opportunity to educate residents, business owners and elected officials about the CDBG, HOME and other community development programs through ODSA and how they improve the quality of life for all.

The work you do locally helps to strengthen communities across Ohio. We encourage you to participate in in Community Development Week this year. The Council of State Community Development Agencies (COSCDA) has a planning guidebook for the week. The National Community Development Association also has resources and ideas for events and outreach you can do locally.

If your community is planning any activities or events during the week, please contact Deauna Gibbs at deauna.gibbs@development.ohio.gov or 614-752-9556 with more information. We would like to highlight the change you’re making in the communities where you live and work.

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Approaching partnerships between health care institutions and community development organizations

Amanda Abrams for Shelterforce:

The shift has been unmistakable: health care organizations are increasingly focusing on upstream factors that affect their patients’ health. To some degree, that shift is the result of state and federal legislation, particularly the Affordable Care Act, which regulates nonprofit hospitals’ preventive care activities. But it’s also just common sense. Addressing patients’ big-picture realities—that is, the social determinants of health like housing, job creation, and food security—can have deep impacts on their day-to-day health and the interventions that are needed.

That new mindset has been a boon to many community development organizations, whose target populations—low-income groups—often tend to be frequent hospital users. The result has been a wide range of collaborations between community development groups and health care institutions that have sprung up around the country. In many cases, the partners have jointly determined that the community’s health problems could be mitigated through the provision of safe, healthy, affordable housing, often making housing development and rehab a front-and-center priority.

It’s a win-win situation: health care institutions save money as patients’ chronic conditions and repeat visits are reduced, while community development groups locate new sources of funding that can further their missions.

Read more in Shelterforce (and subscribe while you’re there!). You’ll hear about OCDCA members LISC of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation.

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Sign here for increased community development and housing resources

We all know that there is tremendous unmet need in the state for community development funding and for housing that low-income people can afford.

However, there is good news: Congress’s recent bipartisan budget agreement is the first opportunity in many years to get increased federal funding for community development and affordable housing.

President Trump’s new budget is a bad start, but it’s just symbolic. The fact is, Congress just lifted austere spending caps that have starved HUD programs for years.

The bill adds $131 billion in domestic non-defense spending for the next two fiscal years, and now they need to figure out how to spend it.

While Trump’s budget would add only $2 billion of that new money to HUD (for an overall 14% cut), we know that increased funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investments Partnership program (HOME), rental assistance, and the National Housing Trust Fund would go a long way to alleviating resource scarcity and the affordability crisis.

But we need to let our members of Congress know these programs really work.

The first step is to add your organization to this sign-on letter asking Ohio’s congressional delegation to support increased funding for HUD programs.

After you sign the letter, we’ll get in touch when the time comes to call your members of Congress to let them know how important these federal community development and housing programs are to their constituents.

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CDC Impact: Food Access

Over the last few years, Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) has been working hard to quantify the impact of CDCs throughout Ohio. We’ve been collecting and analyzing data from our member organizations and are excited to share our findings – especially in digestible bits.

We are pleased to state that, each year, over one million people benefit from the work of Ohio’s CDCs.

In this final week looking at our five community development “buckets,” we discuss food access. A little over two-thirds of OCDCA members offer food access programs.

According to a 2015-released U.S. Department of Agriculture report, 16.9 percent of Ohio households have struggled with food insecurity, which is well above the national average of 5.6, and sixth worst in the nation. Additionally, this same report indicates that 7.5 percent of Ohioans have struggled with very low food security, which is the third worst in the nation. Likewise, the Ohio State University Food Innovation Center found that 17.3 percent of Ohio’s population is food insecure.

Did you know that, in 2016, Ohio CDCs:

  • Connected over 131,000 Ohioans to CDC food programs, including farmer’s markets, healthy food initiatives, and community gardening;
  • Invested more than $2,600,000 in food access programs to ensure low-income communities gain access to fresh and healthy foods;
  • Supported nearly 325 community gardens and 60 farmer’s markets.

Ohio CDC Association members accomplish these things using many strategies. One long-standing strategy is in Appalachia.

Southeast Ohio faces many challenges with getting fresh, healthy food to its residents. Despite the relative abundance of farmland, acquiring fresh fruit and vegetables is difficult because of the region’s remoteness from urban centers where most produce is sent. Distribution is not guaranteed to be profitable because of lower populations, so how does one attract a distribution network to the area?

In the early 2000s, an auction market formed in Southeast Ohio to allow the local Mennonite community a convenient outlet to sell their produce production. The auction format has little overhead compared to a more typical market, and the spectacle of the event involves more of the surrounding communities. An OCDCA member now operates this food hub which simultaneously combats food access issues in southeast Ohio and strengthens the community ties.

From produce auctions to corner stores and vacant lots converted to gardens, Ohio CDCs are tackling food insecurity head-on. We are so proud and grateful for all of their tireless work!

 

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A new revitalization model: demand creation

Guest article from Revitalization News:

“When you chat with your grandmother about urban revitalization, the words that you use and the images she has in her head are likely focused on brick, stone, or clapboard buildings; on tree-lined, brick-paved streets; or on walkable main streets teeming with local retailers, hung shingles, and small offices or apartments above.

It is all about saving places. And we do it for a host of good reasons, be they economic, emotional, or to take advantage of a particular underserved market that wants to move in, not out to the hinterland exurbs.

The strategies we have relied upon mirror those images and words that we use. We focus, and understandably so, on the buildings, streets, and public spaces that make up the neighborhoods we want to save. We wrap policies around these places like bubble wrap, hoping to stem the dis- or mal-investment that has plagued them for a half century.

Design codes and zoning overlays institutionalize the wisdom of previous eras that we seem to be losing, the intuition that allowed us to build great places for millennia. To bridge the gap between what a landowner can invest in a building and what she can reasonably expect in return through rents, we have created a competitive set of tax credits that can be swapped for cash to pour into repointing the brick, popping in new windows, restoring the tin ceiling, and patching the roof.

When successful, we do save the place. Blood, sweat, tears and years go into stabilizing and restoring the bricks and mortar. Retailers open up shop, people move back in, and selfies are taken with your restored neighborhood serving as the memorable backdrop.

But saving that street or adopting that overlay district does not automatically save the neighborhood and, even if it does, it does not necessarily jump the tracks to the next neighborhood even if it exhibits some of the same great buildings and streets that dot your newly revitalized district. The movement does not scale on its own. What is more, even as we have restored investment in the place, real and often valid concerns about how we are restoring investment in the people that for generations stuck it out in the that place grow.

Enter gentrification and displacement.

And when we ignore the movement’s ability to scale and resist the difficult conversations about racial, cultural, and economic inclusion, we expose the preservation movement’s broad side to criticisms about Disneyification and loss of authenticity while isolating the pursuit of revitalization to a narrowing class of advocates that have the resources to navigate the bureaucracy, planning, lending, and trade skills necessary to bring a place back from the brink. This threatens to slow and narrow the movement right when we need to accelerate and broaden it the most.

These shortcomings are due, in large part, to how we go about revitalizing places. In other words: the supply-only approach of property acquisition, tax credits, building stabilization and restoration, and protection policies limit the risks of doing it all. And its importance cannot be underestimated. But while doing all of that hard work with our right hands, it is critical that we do something just as important with our left.

That something is a strategy we’ve come to call Demand Discovery where, through targeted activation of overlooked spaces, programming, storytelling, and ongoing tweaking, we figure out where, how, who, and what to focus on while removing the market’s mental obstacles preventing it from coming to the place you are trying to save.

A central observation of demand discovery is that, over time, we have value engineered out of the building process two key steps. We are likely to still engage in some form of planning (be it in a church basement or in a boardroom) with the intended goal of sustained development and investment.

But the leap between the two is proving to be too vast. We are missing one step by which we test those planning ideas through quick, low-cost, low-risk activations of the idea. We miss another that makes permanent the early and most successful aspects of those activations through smart, small development of the amenities and other uses that virtually all plans wish to bring back to a place. This holds just as true for a coffee shop as it does for a walkable street and allows our bigger development to be more sophisticated, market-driven (ie smarter use of gap funding), and integrated into the fabric of a place.

It is not your grandma’s picture of revitalization but, in fact, more like how places grew when she was a little girl through small scale trial and error that incrementally evolves into an extraordinary place.”

Read the full piece here, which details work occurring in the Cincinnati member Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation.

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Azul restaurant to anchor senior citizen development and neighborhood in Maineville

Polly Campbell of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

An intergenerational development is coming to Maineville that’s a first of its kind in Ohio.

Hopkins Commons will be a neighborhood designed to help senior citizens age in place and stay connected to the larger community. It includes both market-rate and subsidized housing and amenities for people older than 55.

It will be anchored, and partly funded, by Azul, an American comfort-food restaurant open to the public. Chef Nat Blanford will co-own it with Warren County Community Services, which is building Hopkin Commons. They hope to open by April 1, 2018.

Blanford says that the restaurant, open to the public, will be all about comfort.

Read more about this really cool and innovative project.

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CDC Impact: Community Economic Development

Over the last few years, Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) has been working hard to quantify the impact of CDCs throughout Ohio. We’ve been collecting and analyzing data from our member organizations and are excited to share our findings – especially in digestible bits.

We are pleased to state that, each year, over one million people benefit from the work of Ohio’s CDCs.

This week we focus on community economic development – something nearly all OCDCA members do. Community economic development

  • Creates jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities;
  • Builds individual and community wealth and;
  • Attracts capital to disinvested communities.

Did you know that, in 2016, Ohio CDCs:

  • Invested nearly $35,000,000 to develop the economy in their communities, re-connecting community residents to workforce opportunities, creating jobs, and fostering entrepreneurship;
  • Helped over 42,000 households with job training and small business development, resulting in 1,000 new or expanded local businesses, which created nearly 2,500 jobs in low-income communities;
  • Re-purposed or rehabilitated over 1,000 vacant properties.

There are countless ways in which these activities occur around the state.

For example, in 2016, one CDC in Appalachia loaned approximately $130,000 to new and existing small businesses, which resulted in over 118 new or retained jobs.Local small businesses that sought expansion assistance saw an average 15% increase in sales as a result of this assistance.

Another CDC in Columbus finished and sold a 55,000 square foot warehouse to a local makers space, which now serves a community hub for the neighborhood and the city.

Community economic development is at the center of the work of Ohio’s CDCs. Through the work of the 245+ CDCs across the state, Ohio is fostering an environment that comprehensively improves life opportunities for all Ohioans.

 

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Fifth Third pledges $30 billion for community investment

Fifth Third Bancorp and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) have signed a $30 billion community development plan through 2020.

The plan builds on the $27.5 billion community commitment that Fifth Third announced in February 2016, and is the largest by a single bank in recent history.

A detailed summary of the agreement can be accessed at www.53.com/commitment.

We at Ohio CDC Association are quite excited for this commitment. We value Fifth Third as an association member and for their work in Ohio.

Read the rest of the story in the Sidney Daily News.

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Ohio Community Development – If We Can, So Can You

In 2014, Ohio CDC Association started on a campaign to tell the story of community development in Ohio. The first piece for this campaign was the video “Ohio Community Development – If We Can, So Can You.” We attempted to capture the wide variety of activities undertaken by community development corporations to improve their communities. We hope that this is the first of many media pieces that will share the good work that community development corporations do!