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Northeast Ohio Talent Development Efforts Strengthened by New Federal Innovation Grant

CLEVELAND--July 22, 2010--A new federal grant will boost Northeast Ohio efforts to help low-skilled and hard-to-employ workers. The region joined a collaboration led by New York City that was awarded a $5.7 million grant by the Social Innovation Fund, a new initiative of the federal Corporation for National & Community Service.

The Fund for Our Economic Future organized Northeast Ohio’s participation in the grant.

The grant was one of 11 inaugural grants of the Social Innovation Fund, which was created to help communities work together to expand, test and maximize the impact of innovative anti-poverty programs.

Other communities that joined the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) to apply for the grant are Kansas City, MO; Memphis, TN; Newark, NJ; San Antonio, TX; Savannah, GA; and Tulsa, OK. The communities will use the money to replicate successful economic opportunity programs developed by CEO. It hasn’t yet been determined how the money will be distributed among the communities.

“Northeast Ohio’s low-skilled workers and employers will benefit from the Social Innovation Fund’s commitment to a new way to foster, spread and advocate for effective workforce development programs,” said Brad Whitehead, president, Fund for Our Economic Future.

The Fund for Our Economic Future is a collaboration of philanthropy that supports Advance Northeast Ohio, the region’s economic competitiveness agenda. The agenda is focused in four areas, business growth, talent development, racial and economic inclusion and government collaboration and efficiency.

“The efforts supported by this federal grant will touch on all four of the economic priorities of Advance Northeast Ohio, but more importantly they will help improve the futures of thousand of residents,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead credited political and civic leaders from across the region for supporting the collaborative model, called NEO@Work, which made up Northeast Ohio’s portion of the grant application. The Fund received letters of support from the cities of Akron, Youngstown, the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. NEO@Work will organize a network of workforce development stakeholders focused on serving low-skilled and hard-to-employ residents in the region. The network will share best practices, identify and expand effective programs that move clients into career paths, and advocate for state and federal policy changes.

“Akron is pleased to join with others throughout Northeast Ohio in the national learning network that will be a core component of this Social Innovation Fund project,” said Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic. “We have faced the same economic challenges as other cities and we are creating strategies to match our workforce with new economic opportunities.”

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said, “Youngstown is a community committed to making major positive changes in how we serve our citizens and we are working closely with partners throughout Northeast Ohio to do this. We look forward to collaborating with the Fund and others to enhance efforts to improve the employment opportunities of our residents and help our businesses grow.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said, "These funds will help support our efforts to retrain our workforce for employment opportunities that are available today and tomorrow. The landscape of Northeast Ohio's job market is changing and this investment will help Cleveland and Cuyahoga County residents develop skills that attract new businesses and jobs to the region."

In addition to this federal funding, the Fund has attracted a $500,000 grant from the Surdna Foundation, based in New York City, and a $20,000 grant from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation to support NEO@Work.

“Surdna supports initiatives that integrate workforce and economic development approaches that create more family-sustaining careers for current low- and moderate-income people and grow stronger, more robust regions of opportunity,” said Jasmine Thomas, program officer with Surdna’s Strong Local Economies program. “We believe NEO@Work is one of the more promising efforts that will produce tangible results for thousands of unemployed residents while modeling best practices for how a region can break down traditional silos to align its workforce, education, and economic development systems”.

Whitehead said, “Receiving this grant from the Social Innovation Fund, as well as the support of the Surdna and Joyce Foundations, is a prime example of how the Fund and its partners can attract invaluable national expertise, as well as additional resources, to support regional collaborations that strengthen our region’s economic competitiveness. By working together we can help more of our region’s residents build a brighter economic future for themselves and their families.”

For additional information, visit www.futurefundneo.org or www.nationalservice.gov.

ABOUT THE SOCIAL INNOVATION FUND The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a new public-private investment vehicle established by the 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, is designed to fund effective and potentially transformative portfolios of nonprofit community organizations to help them strengthen their evidence base, and replicate and expand to serve more low-income communities; identify more effective approaches to addressing critical social challenges and broadly share this knowledge; and Develop the grantmaking infrastructure necessary to support the work of social innovation in communities across the country.

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY Created in 2006, the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity has piloted and evaluated dozens of innovative anti-poverty programs in support of the working poor, disconnected youths and families with young children.

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, public engagement and research.