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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.


Cincinnati’s first minority-owned brewery coming to Walnut Hills in 2018

Exciting news coming out of Cincinnati, regarding an entrepreneur dedicated to revitalization, two OCDCA members, and beer…sweet, sweet, local beer.

Allison Smith Cohen of Soapbox Cincinnati:

“Recently announced Esoteric Brewing Company has several tactics for setting itself apart from others, starting with the fact that it will be the first minority-owned brewery in the city. Founder and CEO Brian Jackson honed his skills at MadTree before deciding to set off on his own; he’s also a MORTAR grad.

“’Esoteric’ means ‘sophistication,’” says Jackson. “We’re trying to elevate the palates of customers and the entire experience of people coming to breweries in Cincinnati.”

He plans to offer a diverse selection of brews, which will include local favorites like traditional American IPAs and stouts, as well as more complex beers like his award-winning Belgian quadruple, Nirvana.

Jackson picked a location that matches that sense of style and sophistication: the historic Paramount building in Walnut Hills, which was once known as Cincinnati’s “second downtown.”

The beautiful Art Deco-style building from 1910 has sat empty for a decade, but was purchased last year by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and is currently undergoing renovations. Partnering with several community organizations, Esoteric plans to use the roaring ’20s vibe of the space to create a modern speakeasy.”

Read the whole story here.


Akron’s about to get $20 million in housing

Doug Livingston of Akron Beacon Journal:

Akron builders plan to break ground next year on $20 million in housing for America’s newest and oldest residents.

The two projects — a plot of 40 town homes in North Hill, where a glut of immigrants are gobbling up housing, and 40 apartments in Middlebury for the elderly — have Testa written all over them.

Each involves land acquisitions through Testa Real Estate.

The Middlebury project, a three-story brick building with street-level retail, will be owned and operated by East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. Testa Enterprises Inc. will oversee the other project, the Villas of San Tomasso, a courtyard of parking circled by five rows of townhouses and a lease office with a laundry room and other amenities.

Testa shrunk the North Hill project from 50 to 40 units and secured state tax credits, which will offset some of the $7.4 million cost to construct the three- and four-bedroom town homes. When finished in spring 2019, families will be able to move in for $740 to $843 a month, plus gas and electric.

“It’s become one of the hottest areas in Summit County, quite frankly, with the people coming in from Bhutan and Nepal,” Paul Testa said.

Read the full story here!


OCDCA receives significant gift from Fifth Third Bank for microbusiness

There are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S. and over 22 million are microbusinesses with no additional payroll or employees. These businesses are sources of local and personal pride in their communities. The U.S. Small Business Administration found that since 1995, 2 out of every 3 new jobs created have come from small businesses. They are indeed the backbone of the economy, but many microentrepreneurs lack access to traditional banking resources.

In 2013, OCDCA began administration of the Ohio Microbusiness Development Grant Program (OMBDP) via the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA). The OMBDP currently provides funding support on a competitive basis to 13 community development organizations to foster microbusiness development for low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs in the form of training, technical assistance, and loan fund development. Through this program, community development organizations strengthen the economic health of their communities by investing time and resources into these microbusinesses, which become community assets.

In 2015 alone, the OMBDP:

  • Provided over 2,100 technical assistance consultations to microbusinesses
  • Educated over 1,000 aspiring entrepreneurs
  • Started or expanded over 200 businesses
  • Created or retained almost 300 jobs in low-to-moderate income communities

OCDCA created the Ohio Microbusiness Recoverable Grant Fund to provide a sustainable pool of funding to these community development organizations, who can then use the funds to make loans to local microentrepreneurs in their community.

The Ohio Microbusiness Recoverable Grant Fund (RGF) is a statewide fund, from which OCDCA makes recoverable grants to sub-sites of OCDCA’s Microbusiness Development Grant Program, in order for the sub-site to then make loans to their low-to-moderate income microentrepreneur clients. Loan repayments are paid back to the subsite who repays OCDCA to replenish the grant fund, so that more grants for loans to microentrepreneurs can be made in the future. 

We at Ohio CDC Association are eager to announce that the OMBDP Recoverable Grant Fund received a significant gift from Fifth Third Bank. As this program gets rolling, we are delighted to strengthen our partnership with Fifth Third Bank to bolster Ohio microbusiness development programs and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs throughout the state.

Thank you, Fifth Third Bank!


Join us for the Ohio Microbusiness Summit: Best Practices

If your organization has an existing microbusiness development program or if you want to learn more about microbusiness development in Ohio, don’t miss this summit!


2017 Microbusiness Summit: Best Practices
April 3, 2017  /  9:30 AM – 3:00 PM
100 E. Broad Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Register Here!
Free to attend. Lunch will be provided.


The 2017 Microbusiness Summit: Best Practices will allow participants to share ideas about resources and strategies to bolster the effectiveness of their microbusiness program.

It will feature networking opportunities and panel discussions about best practices for microbusiness development programs, including using data and research program growth and marketing, negotiation and mediation, as well as an update on services available from the small business development centers.


9:30 – 10:30:  Registration, Coffee, & Networking

10:30 – 12:00:  Presentation & Discussion: Data and Research for Program Growth

12:00 – 1:00:  Lunch & Networking

1:00 – 2:30:  Presentation & Discussion: Negotiation and Mediation

2:30 – 3:00:  Brief update from SBDC about their programs and services for microentrepreneurs


OCDCA receives program support grant from U.S. Bank Foundation

Ohio CDC Association (OCDCA) is pleased to announce the award of $5,000 from the U.S. Bank Foundation for the Ohio Microbusiness Development Recoverable Grant Fund.

Previously administered by the state of Ohio, in 2013, OCDCA assumed direction of the Ohio Microbusiness Development Program (OMDP) through an agreement with Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA). The purpose of the OMDP is to provide funding for community based organizations to further develop a local delivery system that encourages microbusiness development, provides low- and moderate-income (LMI) households with access to capital for business development and self-employment, and creates and retains long-term jobs in the private sector.

Nature’s Magic owner, Danielle Young, in Athens, Ohio received assistance with her business from ACEnet, an OMDP member serving Southeast Ohio. Here she promotes her products at a Kroger Supermarket.

Assistance enabled by this funding includes training, TA, or lending, with loan funds repaid into a local microbusiness recoverable grant fund.

Outcomes for our microbusiness program are strong. In 2015 we assisted 1,413 households, expanded 82 businesses and created or retained 277 jobs.

The Ohio Microbusiness Recoverable Grant Fund is a statewide fund that allows OCDCA to provide funds to member organizations in the OMDP to make micro loans to LMI entrepreneur clients. Repaid grants are placed back into the fund so that more loans can be made in the future. After an organization has approved a microloan for its client through its loan approval process, it requests a recoverable grant from OCDCA. A 1:1 match is required to use funds from the recoverable grant fund.

By expanding the OMDP with the recoverable grant fund, we continue lending to LMI entrepreneurs while leveraging the ODSA dollars to meet the biggest need of the OMDP organizations:  small business development training, TA and administrative costs.

Leslie Schaller, Deonna Barnett, and Liberty Merrill provide insights on marketing microbusiness programs, and reporting data at a Ohio Microbusiness Development Program Summit.

Funding for the Ohio Microbusiness Development Program comes from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund (OHTF) through the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA); therefore, we are very excited and thankful to have these additional dollars for the Recoverable Grant Fund from U.S. Bank Foundation!



Campus District is getting an at-home feel

By Jay Miller at Crain’s Cleveland Business:

It’s been a while coming for Karen Perkowski, but it’s looking like big things will be happening in the Campus District, the area east of downtown Cleveland.

It’s gotten to the point where community development planners have set in motion a plan to create a business improvement district to turn an area once home mostly to machine shops, electrical supply firms and the like into a real residential neighborhood.

“We’re very excited to see the changes,” said Perkowski, who with her husband Dave and their firm Tower Press Development, developed the Tower Press building at 1900 Superior Ave. 15 years ago and have added several additional buildings along Superior to their portfolio more recently.

The building, like others along Superior, was a part of a turn-of-the-20th-century garment district. In 1911, more than 2,000 members of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union staged a strike here, seeking to improve working conditions by demanding things such as a 50-hour work week.

Now, the demand for downtown living is spurring the activity. Developers see the Campus District as an opportunity to meet some of that demand at a lower rent level than downtown. At the same time, the successful conversion of older office buildings downtown to apartments and condominiums has created a class of office tenants expelled from those downtown buildings who want affordable office space.

Campus District Inc., the nonprofit community development corporation, has tallied a list of in progress development that totals $249.8 million, with additional properties either currently on the market or with development potential.

Bobbi Reichtell, the group’s executive director, said her group is forecasting that the resident population in the neighborhood, now about 5,200, will grow by 1,000, or 19%, in three years.

“Five years ago, no one could have predicted the demand that exists now,” Reichtell said. “It’s the success of downtown that has driven us and given developers the confidence to sink money into a neighborhood that was on the edge.”

A trigger for Perkowski’s and Reichtell’s optimism is the commitment of a local investment firm that is assembling a handful of properties along Superior Avenue. The firm, Global X, has been investing for the long term, with the intent of developing its properties as both residential and commercial space. Global X is a 16-year-old investment firm and tax credit adviser specializing in historic preservation.

It first invested in the Superior Avenue corridor in 2013, when it bought the building at 2498 Superior. It added five more the next year.

State and federal tax credits that encourage the preservation of significant older buildings are a key to the renaissance of the area.

Read the whole article here.


Detroit Shoreway is ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to development

By Jay Miller from Crain’s Cleveland Business:

When the Westown Community Development Corp. set about looking for a development partner for the planned $15 million redo of the long-vacant Variety Theatre on Lorain Avenue, it turned to the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, a neighborhood community development corporation, or CDC.

When community development groups in several struggling neighborhoods on Cleveland’s West Side needed to find a partner to keep those organizations afloat in 2010, the Detroit Shoreway nonprofit was there to unite the groups under its umbrella. In July of that year, Detroit Shoreway opened its Stockyard, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office, now the Metro West Community Development Office on Fulton Road, with its own managing director.

And when the city of Shaker Heights was looking for a developer to help shape a new housing development along the Blue Line Rapid Transit, it turned to the Detroit Shoreway organization. The result is Transit Village — 33 attached, single-family townhomes along Van Aken Boulevard that will sell for between $275,000 and $350,000.

Reducing the number of CDCs has been encouraged by a number of funders in recent years, and Detroit Shoreway’s approach may be the most successful.

“There are fewer resources around and our industry is evolving,” said Jeff Ramsey, the executive director of Detroit Shoreway. “The model we are creating here is using an organizational infrastructure of successful organizations to deliver grassroots community services.”

That means turning into a profit center the development expertise gained in the neighborhood by developing market-rate and affordable housing, and then the $30 million Gordon Square Arts District that includes the Capitol Theatre, the new Near West Theatre and Cleveland Public Theatre. Assisting places like Shaker Heights and the neighboring Westown, and earning development fees that support other services, like neighborhood housing inspections and workforce development programs, also is critical.

It also has meant merging four CDCs — Brooklyn Centre, Clark-Fulton and Stockyards, in addition to Detroit Shoreway.

Both Detroit Shoreway and its Metro West office, which serves the three outlying neighborhoods, have a managing director, Ramsey said. The two offices share a central staff for services such as human resources and information technology. So what had been four standalone organizations, each with small staffs serving 10,000 to 15,000 resident neighborhoods, is now one organization with a combined staff of 28 serving an area with a population of 40,000 people.

“That’s an example (of merging CDCs) where it has worked really well,” said Bobbie Reichtell, executive director of Campus District Inc., a CDC serving a neighborhood east of downtown. “It’s perfect that (Ramsey) is there because the previous organization was very good at community organizing, but not at development.”

Reichtell, a former senior vice president for programs at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, an umbrella organization for local CDCs, said Detroit Shoreway’s development expertise will help rebuild the Metro West area, which abuts the upcoming redevelopment of the MetroHealth campus across West 25th Street.

A segment of the nonprofit world that grew out of the late 1960s, community development corporations, or CDCs, were a response to the struggles of urban neighborhoods with aging housing, including the reluctance of banks to make mortgages in minority and changing neighborhoods and the flight to the suburbs.

Initially funded by churches and foundations, CDCs rescued abandoned homes, rehabilitated them and then filled them with families using lease-purchase agreements. When the young U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Cleveland and other cities funneled CDBG money through these community development groups for low-income housing and housing code enforcement services.

At one time, each traditional Cleveland neighborhood, more than 40 of them, had a CDC. But declining populations and waning federal funding have cut that number in half and forced them to find new ways to stay financially solvent.

Now, Detroit Shoreway’s financial statement shows a $10 million operating budget with three equal funding streams: one-third from development fees, like it’s getting from the Variety Theatre and Transit Village; one-third from foundations and donations; and the rest from the CDBG dollars channeled through the city of Cleveland.

“They’ve gotten ahead of the curve,” said Colleen Gilson, vice president of CDC Advancement at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress about Detroit Shoreway. “Why not export their talents? They’ve been so successful at development.”

But like other CDCs, its services are broadening. Now, looking beyond its strength in housing and commercial development, Detroit Shoreway sees its mission, according to Ramsey, as “effective neighboring.” That includes offering programs like financial literacy to help low-income people build wealth, engaging with other neighborhood groups — like the Hispanic groups in the Clark-Fulton area — as well as workforce programs and even a tax preparation service. As Ramsey sees it, every dollar saved by making sure residents take all of their tax deduction, and the preparation fee of an outside preparer, comes back to the neighborhood.

Even if CDCs can’t find ways to merge (two East Side groups failed at it), Gilson sees CDCs combining resources in other ways, such as developing joint marketing programs or doing long-range planning together. So while the Shaker Square Area Development Corp. and the Buckeye Area Development Corp. couldn’t find their way to a merger, Ohio City Inc. and the Tremont West Development Corp., two relatively strong CDCs, are seeking to fund a shared safety coordinator position.

“I think the future is in partnerships and collaborations,” Ramsey said.


South Side housing complex to include job training

By Mark Ferenchik from The Columbus Dispatch:

“In the past few years, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has hired 325 employees from the South Side neighborhood it calls home.

It may be hiring more. The hospital plans to open a job-training program at a new $12 million low- and moderate-income housing complex rising on the South Side less than a mile from the hospital.

The 58-unit Residences at Career Gateway, at 755 E. Whittier St., west of Heyl Avenue, will provide workforce training an

d other services to help residents gain and keep jobs. It is being built on the site of the former Heyl Elementary School.

Some of the programs will help to train future workers at the hospital, including those in environmental services and nutrition services, as well as patient-care assistance and information technology, said Elisabeth Baldock, the hospital’s chief human-resources officer.

Baldock was one of several city, neighborhood and business leaders on hand at the launch of the project Friday. Construction of the 14 town homes and 44 apartments started a couple of months ago and should be finished next summer.

The NRP Group, a Cleveland for-profit developer, and Community Development for All People partnered on the project, which was primarily financed with $1 million in tax credits annually for 10 years, plus a $1.5 million loan from the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus and Franklin County.

The city invested $250,000 in the project, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. provided a $75,000 grant.

The Rev. John Edgar, executive director of Community Development for All People, said the job-training aspect — for complex residents as well as others — makes the project unique.

“All of these opportunities are open to people who live in the community,” Edgar said. “It’s not just a low-income tax credit project.”

Aaron Pechota, NRP’s senior vice president, said, “We feel that this is a model that can be replicated in Ohio and across the country.”

Doug Garver, the executive director of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, said the concept stood out in the competitive tax-credit arena.

The monthly rents run from $620 to $650 for one- and two-bedroom units, and $750 for three-bedroom units. There are income restrictions: $29,280 for one person and $41,775 for a four-member family.

Ken Williams, a Ganthers Place neighborhood leader, said the project helps to jump-start the community. Curtis Davis, the vice president of the Columbus South Side Area Commission, said, “It gives people a hope, a path to the middle class.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther talked about the investment in the neighborhood. Dr. Steve Allen, the hospital’s CEO, mentioned the 325 jobs the hospital has provided for neighborhood residents, as well as the hospital’s Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative, through which $18 million has gone toward neighborhood housing since its inception in 2008.”

Read the whole article here.


Microbusiness Summit: Access to Resources

If your organization has an existing microbusiness development program or if you want to learn more about microbusiness development in Ohio, don’t miss this summit!
2016 Microbusiness Summit: Access to Resources
November 3, 2016
9:30 AM – 3:00 PM
100 E. Broad Street
6th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215
Register Here!
Free to attend.
Lunch will be provided.

The 2016 Microbusiness Summit: Access to Resources will allow participants to share ideas about resources and strategies to bolster the effectiveness of their microbusiness program.

It will feature networking opportunities and panel discussions about resources for microbusiness development programs, including crowdfunding platforms and credit building services for your microbusiness clients.
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Registration, Coffee, & Networking
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Presentation & Discussion: Crowdfunding Platforms
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Lunch & Networking
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Presentation & Discussion: Credit Building for Your Microbusiness Clients
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM Brief Update on OCDCA Microbusiness Development Program