In the early years of our Fund, developing our regional economic identity was a key focus, as we worked to engrain "Northeast Ohio" into our lexicon and how we work. And we've been quite successful in this regard; the regional capacity our Fund has worked with others to create over the past dozen-plus years has been substantial and presents tremendous leverage. Collectively, we've built an interconnected network of regional economic development organizations and initiatives that have created and retained more than 24,400 jobs, added nearly $1.1 billion in payroll, and attracted just over $6 billion in capital to the region. We've helped increase investment in the region. And we've nurtured a respected network of civic leaders, working effectively and collaboratively to address economic issues and inclusion.
Yet, while we know our economy is regional, Northeast Ohio is not one place. It is this understanding that drives how we work today.
Economic data tell us we must do more to strengthen local community assets and improve their connections to the regional economy. From 2012 to 2014, the number of economically distressed census tracts across our region increased by nearly 25 percent, while the number of people living in areas of economic distress rose by 23 percent. That translates to one in 17 residents living in neighborhoods cut off from the regional economy. Too many neighborhoods, families and individuals are not sharing in our regional prosperity -- and that hurts our economy.
To address this disturbing trend, our Fund has been engaging with local communities to understand how we can better embed Growth & Opportunity at the local level, while we continue to think, plan and act regionally. This is not a one-size-fits-all forumula; rather, it requires a diverse approach depending on the local community assets and needs.
For more on this local-regional connection, see how this work is unfolding in the city of Akron.
As we advance work locally, it is critical we do so against stiff criteria, which our members have developed under the guidance of our Regional Engagement Committee. If interested in learning more about this work or how our Fund might be able to help build capacity in your community, contact Director of Regional Engagement Kevin Alin.