Business, philanthropy unite around common economic goals in NE Ohio

Communities / Article

In 2004 Knight Foundation helped form the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaborative to turn around the hard-hit economy of Northeast Ohio. Knight and the Fund recently released a report detailing lessons from the Fund’s first seven years, “Catalyzing Regional Economic Transformation.” Daniel E. Klimas is president and CEO of LNB BanCorp and chair of the Strategy Coordinating Committee for the Fund’s Northeast Ohio Regional Competitiveness Strategy.

The approach we have undertaken for our Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy work in northeast Ohio is a close partnership between philanthropy and business. It has become an exciting and dynamic approach.

It allows our community to create a common agenda to guide priorities and investments. We all know there are many great causes and opportunities in northeast Ohio, but we don’t have unlimited resources. But with the business community and philanthropy working in partnership, we are able to collectively drive the priorities in the region and focus on the areas of highest impact. Related Links 

Lessons in collaboration reach beyond the boundaries of NE Ohio ” on Knight Blog by Carol Coletta and Jon Sotsky

Business accelerator jump-starts opportuniites in NE Ohio” by Laura Bennett on KnightBlog

Business mentors guide growing startup” by Shawn Mastrian on KnightBlog

NE Ohio fosters environment for entrepreneurship” by Tony Giordano on KnightBlog

The power of convening and coordinating” by Wayne Watkins on KnightBlog

This approach has its challenges. Philanthropy and business often work on different timetables and with unique processes for evaluation and funding. However, it is worthwhile to work through these differences and find common ground around strategy, timing and process to achieve the benefits of an integrated approach to economic development.

Here are just a few of the results so far:

  • There is so much that is positive that has taken place in supporting entrepreneurship in northeast Ohio. Our challenge is to sustain this momentum and build on it. One way that we can leverage this strength is to focus our attention on “gazelle” companies, small companies with high growth potential. Many of the same techniques that have benefitted entrepreneurial companies can be applied to this exciting group.
  • Driver industries are the core industries in our economy. Some of our historic driver industries are thriving while others are stagnant or declining. Data suggest that retention and expansion of these companies constitute a large part of the growth opportunities in our market. Based on this information, we established a team to focus on improving our efforts in retention and expansion, with particular emphasis on driver industries.
  • The analysis of workforce-related data highlights the need to have a more prepared workforce in place to meet the future needs of our region. This analysis led to the creation of a team that will focus on building an integrated approach to addressing workforce.

Critical to our work is the data and synthesis the Fund for Our Economic Future provides. It shapes the focus and priority of the strategic initiatives. In addition to published information, the expertise that resides at the Fund is world-class. Their analysis was instrumental in identifying the opportunity that is available if the northeast Ohio economy could perform at levels equal to or better than the national economy. The analysis spanned areas such as employment, gross regional product and per capita income. The Fund was also able to clearly articulate the need for focusing on a growth strategy that inclusive and beneficial to all residents of northeast Ohio.

I have also been particularly impressed with the depth of expertise that resides in the philanthropic organizations across our region. We are fortunate to have strong leadership and incredibly talented staff in our philanthropic organizations. The depth and breadth of resources and access to information and expertise is quite remarkable. The combination of the philanthropic world with the strength and knowledge of the private sector is the ingredient that can differentiate northeast Ohio and propel us to higher growth and performance.