Columbus Aims to Reduce Poverty Through Targeted Neighborhood Development Plans

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“Neighborhoods! Neighborhoods! Neighborhoods!” Mayor Andrew Ginther has made neighborhood revitalization a top priority for his administration since he took office over a year ago. A quick glance at the large cranes hanging over the city signal continued growth that deserves to be celebrated. However, for a large percentage of Columbus residents, the sight of new high-rises only serves as a stark reminder that the neighborhoods they call home have struggled at a disproportionate rate. The sad fact remains that large pockets of poverty exist within walking distance of booming development projects. While Columbus passes the development eye test with flying colors, a large percentage of city residents remain frustrated that they can’t share in the excitement of Columbus’ changing skyline.

To combat this, The City of Columbus and community foundations, along with other local organizations, have begun strategically planning place-based investment initiatives in the city’s most blighted neighborhoods. Lifting impoverished areas up with resource mobilization should pay dividends for Central Ohio’s most needy in the future.

For over a decade, ECDI has proven that this model works. ECDI’s success investing in small businesses has brought hundreds of job opportunities to neighborhoods like the Hilltop, Linden, and Weinland Park, spurring job growth in areas that need it the most. With other organizations now joining the cause, Columbus’ skyline should beam bright for many years.

“We’ve provided resources for years; business capital, education, and other socially conscious services to often-ignored Central Ohio neighborhoods,” Inna Kinney, CEO and founder of ECDI, said. “Our track record proves that if you give someone with a dream the tools to succeed, entrepreneurship can be the driving force that not only provides financial freedom for themselves, but enhances the neighborhoods their businesses call home. Creating sustainable businesses that bring more jobs to areas where opportunities are sparse is highly valuable.”

ECDI has deployed millions of dollars in capital to small businesses in distressed neighborhoods of Columbus, bringing hope to residents and creating a sense of resiliency amongst entrepreneurs who’ve been fighting against imposing odds.

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ECDI’s lending portfolio, as illustrated above, is abundant with children-centered learning academies and home healthcare companies that provide essential social services. Other businesses include restaurants, photography studios, and even a bed and breakfast, all of which have helped create a stronger sense of community, allowing more citizens to take pride in the city’s record-breaking growth, while providing an increase in employment opportunities in those areas.

These small business investments seem to be paying off. Over the past eight years, unemployment rates have continually declined in Columbus’ poorest neighborhoods per U.S. census data. This momentum has led to other targeted investment initiatives being established in the public, nonprofit, and corporate sectors.

The City of Columbus recently instituted the Department of Neighborhoods, placed strategically in South Linden, home to the City’s Neighborhood Pride program, as well as the Community Relations Commission, neighborhood liaisons and a customer-service center. The City has also created a new pre-kindergarten education center to increase academic success in previously underperforming areas.

The Columbus Foundation has invested over $6 million in Weinland Park since 2008, delivering programs that support educational enrichment, crime reduction, healthy living, housing stabilization, and civic engagement within the community.

Following in the footsteps of place-based success, The United Way of Central Ohio is shifting its approach to combat poverty by coordinating services in targeted neighborhoods on the South Side and in South Linden. With a planned $15 million investment, The United Way of Central Ohio will work with struggling families, linking them to additional services, creating an environment for Columbus’ most impoverished families to thrive in.

Central Ohio pillars and neighborhood anchor institutions, like The Ohio State University, Huntington National Bank, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, have also made investments in distressed areas, creating initiatives that support increased affordable housing to boost home ownership rates throughout the metro area.

Because of ECDI’s target market that includes low-to-moderate income individuals, African American entrepreneurs, and investment areas defined by their population poverty rate (equal or greater to 20 percent), their unemployment rate (1.5 times the national average), or their family income (equal to or below 80 percent of the median family income), ECDI has organically served distressed neighborhoods throughout Ohio. With local partners and funders now supporting ECDI through deliberate neighborhood investment, economic opportunities are expected to increase for residents, enabling vulnerable neighborhoods to thrive in the future.

“Place-based transformation efforts like those in Weinland Park, the Near East side, Southside, Linden and others are successful when the planning process includes robust resident involvement; public, private and nonprofit partners; and the dollars needed to make the plan a reality,” Mayor Ginther said. “A vibrant city is made up of many strong neighborhoods and I am so proud that in Columbus, America’s opportunity city, we value lifting up all neighborhoods.”

— Since 2004, ECDI has assisted Ohio’s entrepreneurs through their one-stop-shop business services model, suited to meet the needs of all entrepreneurs, regardless of what business stage they’re in. From providing capital to entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses, to providing focused, business-specific educational opportunities to enhance entrepreneurial skill sets, ECDI works with their clients to meet their specific needs. Whether you merely have a business idea or are opening up your fifth location, ECDI’s “never say no” approach has allowed over ten thousand entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services they provide. Visit www.ecdi.org today to learn more. —