Prosperity Plan Update #2January 31, 2020
The Prosperity Plan planning phase concluded in April 2019, and the plan was rolled out in June at our first-ever Annual Meetings, but the work is far from complete. Team Leads meet quarterly to provide updates. The progress reported at the second Team Lead Meeting on November 22nd is noted below.
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13 Initiatives within 4 Broad Categories
Employer Roundtables: Gallia and Jackson County Roundtables reported a launch date that will take place in Q1 2020. Analysis has been conducted of regional roundtables and other types of events like HR, plant managers, and safety councils. The best practices regionally and nationally go to Cambridge’s manufacturing and Zanesville/Marietta’s safety council.
Advocating for the Region: Appalachian Partnership Inc. (API) and Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) joined the local development districts (LLDs) and other members of Ohio Rural Development Alliance (ORDA) to advance rural-focused policy in Ohio. New members to ORDA include APEG, FAO, and Meigs County.
Gina Collinsworth has been selected as Public Information Coordinator for Ohio Valley Resource Development Commission (OVRDC) and Ohio Rural Development Alliance (ORDA).
Buckeye Hills Regional Council (BHRC) agreed to organize a broadband policy agenda for the next ORDA meeting at Bricker and Eckler. The LDDs, API, APEG and others have advocated with the FCC regarding rules of distributing assistance for rural broadband coverage. Southeastern Ohio provided more comments to the FCC than any other region of the country. The work of Tom Reid, Reid Consulting, guided BHRC’s broadband policy recommendations based upon a project started by the Athens EDC and BHRC under an ARC Power Grant. Tom’s work will continue beyond the BHRC counties thanks to BHRC and APEG agreeing to fund a similar study for the rest of the Appalachian region.
API met with the US House Small Business Committee’s Staff Director to discuss ways to improve rural access to federal small business assistance grant funding and loan capital. Participation in the organizing meeting of a new national Rural Development Network focused on coordinating efforts across multiple organizations to advance rural-friendly federal rural policy.
Incumbent Worker Upskilling: Most local OhioMeansJobs (OMJ) regions have now added Incumbent Worker Upskilling to their operational plans and are rolling out services supported with surplus adult worker funds. OMJ services are similar to those provided under the former API Upskill program. A major investment toward UpSkilling workers is being introduced by new Ohio TechCred program, but because of a short turn-around time, the region’s businesses might have trouble accessing those funds unless some are held back for later rounds. The team is working on developing workshops in eastern and southern Ohio to bring OMJ, economic development and education/training providers together to discuss available and needed UpSkill resources.
Business Engagement with Career Awareness (BECA): Building Bridges to Careers has worked to identify several BECAs around the region and work is being conducted to determine the various levels of service currently present. A map has been developed and will continue to be built out. Katie Good and Sandy Doudna are giving assistance in eastern Ohio with BECAs and work is happening to continue to discover more that is happening in this sphere. One of the goals is connecting businesses to schools. Existing groups are funding themselves in various ways.
HR Best Practices: APEG and OMEGA organized two recruiting best practices events in October for employers; both events were well attended. Presentations were made by Job Target, OMJ, BB2C and some area employers. Employers provided good reviews and believed valuable information was shared. Based upon this success, four additional events are planned for 2020.
Site & Spec Building Development: A gap analysis of supply and demand was conducted by APEG Site Advisor Donna Hrezo and JobsOhio Project Manager Brodie Lepi. Data was shared at recent quarterly economic development practitioner meetings. Currently in-progress is work with local ED professionals to obtain their best sites and buildings. The Rural Industrial Park Loan Program (RIPLP) has been reinstated thanks to a group effort and legislative support. ODSA rules will make the RIPLP partially forgivable, which makes speculative development in rural Ohio more feasible. JO/APEG Due Diligence Initiative Funding paid for comprehensive due diligence and preliminary engineering studies on 14 sites in southern Ohio in 2019 to help communities be more competitive in site selection .
Business Financing Gaps: Appalachian Growth Capital (AGC) surpassed $60M in placed financing for area businesses with banks and other lenders—projections to grow to $100M. AGC is in final stages of review to secure more than $4MM in loan fund capital for its own loan programs, giving them the ability to use their own funds to provide loans that fill gaps in what banks will finance. API is in discussion with developers about hosting a regional pilot of a software program for CDFIs and Business Assistance Providers that will allow more efficient use of business counseling staff time. The software walks clients through core concepts allowing staff time to be spent on higher-level questions and issues. Programs will be/are available to help develop the area of successfully approaching lenders and attracting outside investors into rural areas to provide capital.
Broadband Infrastructure: Thanks to the great work of BHRC, the Athens EDC and Reid Consulting, our region has made tremendous strides in understanding the magnitude of the population unserved by broadband, developed policy recommendations for the best technologies, and quantified the subsidies required to reach 100% coverage in Appalachian Ohio.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funded the work through a POWER grant, and as we all suspected, broadband coverage is worse in the “rural expanse” with only 10-20% having service. Step one of solving the problem is to correct previous FCC maps which often overstated broadband coverage by a factor of 13 to 1. Map corrections are in process. See maps here and provide feedback on maps/coverage or lack thereof by Feb. 14th here. Their study recommended a fiber technology on existing power poles to reach all homes. Through their study, the developed subsidy recommendations about how to incentivize providers to provide service in the rural expanse, they recommend using the FCC’s Connect America program.
Tom Reid and Misty Crosby went to DC to advocate for the region. They have also made policy recommendations to the state including a request for state funds to match federal funds. ORDA is helping to advocate for this. API and APEG have endorsed the policy recommendations. Learn more a lot more about regional broadband efforts here. APEG and BHRC have agreed to fund Tom Reid’s efforts beyond the 8-county BHRC area.
Business Retention & Expansion (BRE): Salesforce will now be used by APEG and partners to track BRE information. Through Q3 of 2019, 147 companies were visited and 86 of those are growing, with plans to increase numbers next year. The plan is for APEG’s BRE program to mirror protocol of the new JobsOhio efforts. The program will bring added value to local partners with the introduction of a JobsOhio portal to enter BRE information. New JobsOhio modules will be adapted for regional use which will provide guidance for conversations, as well as assist with data gathering and entry. A LEDO portal will be made available to upload information into Salesforce, which will allow us to track trends and data.
Cluster Development: Innovation Center staff conducted five interviews with Stirling industry experts and made the following conclusions: (1) The pursuit of money for cluster development was not recommended. (2) We can best support our current Stirling companies by focusing on building up the connection with the University teaching Lean Methodology and possibly offering a Stirling course. These connections have been made between industry and higher education so that the next generation of talent can be trained on the technology. (3) In the future, we might consider supporting a broader “micro-machining hub” to support multiple high-tech small businesses in lieu of just Stirling. In conclusion, the needs of the Stirling companies right now are: talent (with Stirling education and experience), commercial sites, and gap and venture financing.
Targeted Business Attraction: In 2019, APEG participated in 34 site searches through Q3. Six projects have conducted site visits in the APEG region this year. The 2020 budget request was submitted to JobsOhio to support increased lead generation activities and site selector meetings. Limited trade show activities (two PetChem and one hardwood) will continue. Anticipated market trips to Chicago and Montreal are planned. Site selector, broker meetings, and events are also planned in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Columbus.
Website Enhancements: APEG has identified a new web development company within the region to build a new APEG website that will double as a REGIONAL website—an important recommendation from the website enhancement group. Currently, the team is in the strategy phase of the build. Other landing pages will be built for specific purposes that can be assessed as entry points for different audiences. It is anticipated that phase two of the rebranding process will be complete by the end of the year and the new website will launch in late Q1 or early Q2 of 2020. Additional landing pages are planned for the Prosperity Plan, Incentives, Industries and others, to be used as first point of entry for specific audiences and initiatives.
Community Technical Assistance: A survey has been prepared and is ready to send to regional partners including mayors, county commissioners and local economic development professionals. Local Development Districts (LDDs) will be contacted regarding distribution of their lists as well. By the end of the year, target data for the survey released in December will be available. Amista Lipot of the Voinovich School will replace Jennifer Simon who has relocated to ARC in Washington DC.
A Note about Fundraising Efforts to Support the Plan
Convergent Non-Profit Solutions was hired to conduct a fundraising assessment. We were originally considering a three-year plan but five years were recommended instead. To fully implement all aspects of the Prosperity Plan, it is estimated we’ll need to raise $6.6 to $10M. Plans are underway to significantly increase the size of the API board to obtain more business engagement beginning in 2020.
Next Team Lead Meeting: February 28, 2020