The state received final approval yesterday to distribute an additional $9.2 million to five regional groups, including Columbus 2020, as they continue to evolve as local economic-development offices partnering with JobsOhio.
Columbus 2020, a 10-county economic-development group, will get $1.8 million but must provide a $906,000 match of local funds under a proposal approved yesterday by the state Controlling Board, a spending-oversight panel.
JobsOhio, the private, nonprofit office set up by Gov. John Kasich to guide jobs and investment expansion in Ohio, is developing a network of regional partners in an effort to leverage regional strengths and organize resources. The funds are coming from ballot-approved Third Frontier money.
"Prior to JobsOhio, communities operated on an economic-development basis like medieval city-states," said Daryl Revoldt, legislative and community outreach director for JobsOhio. "We are now a unified team that can bring regional partners, local economic-development professionals and the business community together to capture business opportunities."
Revoldt pointed to IBM's recent decision to construct a new data-analytics center and create 500 jobs on the Northwest Side as evidence of the success of the new regional partners.
Funding yesterday included $800,000 to the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth; $1.1 million to Regional Growth Partnership Inc., of Toledo; $1.2 million to Development Projects Inc., of Dayton; and $2.8 million for Team NEO in Cleveland. The money represents the second round -- on top of $14 million awarded in August 2011.
Karen Conrad, the state Development Services Agency's liaison to JobsOhio, said that in the past, "Everybody was kind of doing their own thing and would only come to the state when they needed something. What we're doing now is setting up a continuum, and the relationship is ongoing."
Kenny McDonald, chief economic officer of Columbus 2020, said the funding has helped the group tell the region's story nationally and develop a network of regional economic-development groups that, for the first time, are holding detailed conversations with one another.
"We are now doing what we promised to do," McDonald said, noting that that includes searching for opportunities within existing companies, marketing the region worldwide, and aiding high-growth companies.
Columbus 2020 has about $3 million in private-sector funding.
Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Port Clinton, cast the lone vote against the funding. Democrats continue to raise concerns about lack of transparency regarding JobsOhio, and Redfern called it "troubling" to hand over voter-approved Third Frontier money to the group.
"I have no doubt that the nonprofits that are mentioned ... that their work is incredibly important," he said. "Ensuring this is a publicly transparent program, as it was upon passage, will remain my top concern."
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