CLEVELAND--September 19, 2019--The members of the Fund for Our Economic Future recently approved grants totaling $900,000 to support improved job creation, job preparation and job access in Northeast Ohio. The awards went to efforts to support workforce sector partnerships; further develop and test a strategic approach to bring jobs to people; and source innovative ideas to better connect people to jobs.
"Collectively, these awards enable our Fund to advance our dual goal of growing the economy and improving access to opportunity," said Chair Mark Samolczyk, president and CEO of Stark Community Foundation.
At their September meeting held at Quaker Station in Akron, members of the funding alliance agreed to allocate the following resources from their pooled fund:
- Up to $250,000 to Team NEO, including $100,000 for the business development intermediary to provide technical assistance to four regional pilots to test "job hubs." Job hubs are a more strategic approach to business expansion that promise to boost business competitiveness while improving workforce, environmental and fiscal outcomes. This work is part of the Fund's long-term focus on shifting land use patterns and bringing jobs to people;
- Up to $200,000 over two years for Workforce Connect, a public-private partnership in Cuyahoga County supporting the formation and activities of manufacturing, health care and information technology (IT) sector partnerships; and
- Up to $25,000 in 2019 operating support for ConxusNEO, the workforce intermediary in Summit County, providing backbone support to three active sector partnerships in manufacturing, health care and IT.
Members also approved an allocation of $425,000 in support of the $1 million Paradox Prize initiative and related expenses. The goal of The Paradox Prize, which launched in June, is to source and test a range of mobility solutions that can help residents constrained by their geography better access jobs, improve the ability for area businesses to fill thousands of open positions, and elevate the conversation around the transportation challenges in our region. The effort is also being supported by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Greater Cleveland Partnership, The Lozick Family Foundation, Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Foundation, and DriveOhio. Funding will be awarded in rounds until exhausted. The next deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. on November 4.
On the work to support job hubs, Fund President Brad Whitehead said he is eager to work with Team NEO on proving the emerging concept. Job hubs are contiguous places where there exist multiple sites and multiple employers. "While developed here, this frame is gaining statewide and national attention as it offers a more strategic, fiscally responsible and equitable approach to land use," he said. "Right now, development occurs through highly fragmented sites, which creates often unsolvable dilemmas for transit providers, prevents employers from accessing the full breadth of talent they need, places incredible fiscal burdens on municipalities, and diminishes air and water quality. We believe the 'both/and' approach of bringing jobs to people through a focus on hubs and better connecting people to jobs through the work of The Paradox Prize will result in improved job access in our region."
"By focusing on hubs, we can differentiate ourselves in the market and create more sustainable, coordinated systems," said Bill Koehler, CEO of Team NEO. "Through a series of pilots, we can prove that job hubs are a good mechanism for multiple actors across the system to align and optimize their investments, while providing solutions that benefit both employers and workers."
Meanwhile, the sector partnership work in Cuyahoga and Summit counties has the potential to meaningfully improve workforce development outcomes in our region, said Deborah Vesy, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a member of the Fund, and chair of the workforce funders group that is overseeing Workforce Connect. "Workforce Connect and ConxusNEO are playing important bridging roles between economic development and the talent pipeline," she said.
To learn more about the Fund, its mission or how to join funders in their quest for a more extraordinary Northeast Ohio economy, go to www.thefundneo.org.