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The Fund Makes Plans to Continue Regional Economic Competitiveness Work Until 2013

KIRTLAND, OH--June 9, 2009--The Fund for Our Economic Future today voted to continue its collaboration to support regional economic competitiveness into a third phase to start in February 2010 and end in February 2013. Members of the Fund unanimously approved its phase three strategy at the quarterly Funders Committee meeting held on the Lakeland Community College campus. Formed in 2004, the Fund for Our Economic Future is a charitable collaboration of organizations and individuals that uses grantmaking, research and civic engagement to strengthen the 16-county region’s economic competitiveness. In its third phase, the Fund intends to continue working with its partners in the public and private sectors to implement Advance Northeast Ohio, the region’s economic action plan focused on four priorities:

  • Business growth and attraction
  • Talent development
  • Racial and economic inclusion
  • Government collaboration and efficiency

In phase three, as in the previous phases, voting members will contribute $100,000 or more to the collaboration and jointly decide how to allocate its grantmaking dollars. In its first two phases, the Fund has raised more than $55 million. Fund members will make financial commitments to phase three over the next several months. “The members’ unanimous support for continuing our collaboration reflects both the tremendous progress we have made in helping strengthen the region’s economy, as well as an appreciation that much work needs to be done to ensure a vibrant economic future for Northeast Ohio,” said Fund Chairman David Abbott, who is also executive director of The George Gund Foundation. “In these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever that philanthropy and others within the region unite to address the priorities that influence Northeast Ohio’s ability to compete in the global economy.” Abbott acknowledged that because of the global financial crisis, the Fund anticipates having fewer resources in the next three years than were available during each of its first two phases. “Each member organization will have to decide how much it can commit to the collaboration,” he said. “I am confident that the Fund will continue to accelerate progress in building growing industries, preparing our region’s residents for the jobs of the present and the future, improving the efficiency of local government and ensuring that all of our region’s residents have greater access to economic opportunities.” One of the key objectives of the third phase will be to enhance partnerships with government officials, the region’s business community and other civic leaders. “These strengthened partnerships will help Northeast Ohio sustain important economic competitiveness work over the long term,” Abbott said. Also, the Funders Committee approved a $250,000 grant to explore ways to expand the agricultural industry in Northeast Ohio. The study will be conducted by the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC), one of the nation’s leading food and agricultural research centers. The OARDC, which is based in Wooster, will work with agricultural interests from across Northeast Ohio to identify opportunities to grow the region’s $8.2 billion agricultural industry. Home to more than 2,200 farms, about 40 percent of the region’s land is used for agriculture. However, much of the region’s agricultural output is limited to commodity products, and every year more agricultural land is lost to residential and commercial development. Expanding the region’s specialty agriculture production – ranging from locally grown foods to renewable energy crops – would result in higher incomes and job growth, and would also preserve the region’s natural assets. “Agriculture is a critically important industry to the economic future of our region, and this research will identify options to accelerate its growth,” said Peter Meisel of the Meisel Family Foundation and co-chair of the Fund committee that recommended the grant.

The OARDC anticipates completing its work within one year and the Fund would then consider proposals to support recommendations that emerge from the work.

Additionally, the Fund approved a $20,000 contribution to a study that will identify opportunities to tighten economic connections between Northeast Ohio and the Pittsburgh Region. Partners in the “Tech Belt Initiative” intend to spend a total of $100,000 on the research to be conducted by GSP Consulting Corp. of Pittsburgh. Other contributors to the study include the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development. GSP will work with a steering committee to identify at least five initiatives that could accelerate economic growth for the “mega region” of Pittsburgh-Northeast Ohio. The work will include a variety of activities, including conducting national/international benchmarking, assessing the shared assets of the two regions, facilitating interactions between potential partners, identifying federal funding sources and creating a network of interested partners.

“Our two regions have tremendous assets that can be leveraged to create increased economic growth on both sides of the states’ border,” said Joel Ratner, president of The Raymond John Wean Foundation of Warren. Ratner is leading the Fund’s participation in the Tech Belt Initiative.  ABOUT THE FUND FOR OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE

The Fund for Our Economic Future is a collaboration of more than 100 foundations, organizations and philanthropists from across Northeast Ohio that strengthens the region’s economic competitiveness through grantmaking, civic engagement and research.

For more information, contact:

Chris ThompsonFund for Our Economic Future216-925-4902 (office)216-215-0329 (cell)cthompson@futurefundneo.org