Reflections on a Summer at Oxford

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

I had the privilege of participating in the University of Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Program in the UK in June. The discussions were led by well-established experts and critical thinkers drawn from Oxford’s various colleges as well as private industry. Our class included three dozen C-level executives from many business sectors and areas of the world.  I was the only US representative – which made my leadership, management and world views unique to say the least.

This was easily the most thought-provoking, and most enjoyable, learning experience in my many years of education. Thought you might enjoy a few of the takeaways.

We began with a discussion of leadership, its role and purpose within forward-thinking organizations. Our findings, drawn from the group’s comments, debates and exercises, is that “Leadership is about building new capacity for learning,” and that “Good leaders must be able to learn, unlearn and relearn on a continual basis.”  We defined several traits common to all leaders to include: intelligence, emotional stability, extroversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Various Oxford faculty presented their unpublished research on the subject and solicited feedback from the group. The emphasis was on the fact that group thinking does not always make the right decisions. The group is valuable when it relies on the individual’s thinking. Every individual’s participation is important.

It is not possible within this forum to provide much more than a few other valued takeaways:

  • The more you know, the fewer answers you have.
  • Embracing risk is not the same as taking risk.
  • Trust is the essential element of any team.
  • A leader’s aim is to delegate and train until he/she is no longer required.
  • Worry about what you can control today.
  • People remember recognition.
  • The vision is diluted with each delegation.
  • A leader makes the decision based on the best information, takes action and accepts the consequences.
  • How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organization will function.
  • Most people form trust based on face-to-face interaction (visual cues).
  • There is no perfect strategy. There are only strategies that are good enough to get where we need to be.
  • Avoid financial myopia remembering that strategy is knowing where we’re going, leadership is running to get there, and finance is the valued tool of measuring both.
  • Imagination is the short cut to a person’s heart.

 So what’s my leadership role at Finance Fund? I see myself as the chancellor of change, the curator of the creative, a malcontent of mediocrity and a consummate connector. Alliteration aside, I work alongside our senior executive team and staff to achieve short-term goals that add up to excellent long-term performance.  It’s not always about following the script. It’s about moving toward impact within the limits of the strategy. The contribution of leadership is to incent excellence in performance of the whole team.

 Our brand exists primarily in people’s heads so we know the importance of communicating our business strategy through good storytelling. We also know the importance of connecting strategy to measurable performance standards. We come to work every day to fulfill our promise to connect low-income communities with public and private sources of capital to improve the quality of life for people. 

 It’s good to be back at Finance Fund where theory meets practice and we can learn, unlearn and relearn every day.

Ohio Economic Development Projects Stall Without Federal NMTC Allocation

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

When, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund announced the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) awards on June 5th 2014 for the 2013 round, Finance Fund was disappointed that we did not receive an allocation. To date, we had received a federal NMTC allocation in eight rounds totaling $240 million.

In conducting our analysis of the awards, it became apparent that no Ohio-focused community development entity (CDE) had received a NMTC allocation. As we thought about the negative impact this would have on the projects and investments we were working on, we began searching for funding alternatives for our pipeline projects.

Certainly, there are even greater implications for the state of Ohio. The state’s low-income and distressed communities simply won’t benefit from the private investment incentivized by the NMTC. This will slow or even stop important projects that would have served as economic growth engines to create jobs and circulate revenue in areas that need it most.

What’s more, there are implications for the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit Program as well. Unfortunately, the state’s NMTC program is coupled with the federal program. This means that for a CDE to apply for an allocation from the Ohio NMTC Program, it must first receive a federal NMTC allocation. Although out-of-state CDEs are eligible to apply for Ohio NMTCs, the overwhelming majority of allocatees have been Ohio-based CDEs. As it currently stands, without any new federal NMTC allocation to Ohio-based CDEs, very few, if any CDEs will be able to utilize the state program.

Efforts are under way to decouple the state program from the federal program. In February, a coalition of seven CDEs from throughout Ohio, led by Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein, met with state legislators to demonstrate the positive economic impact of Ohio’s NMTC program and discuss ways to streamline and improve the program.

One of the most important recommended changes is to decouple the state program from the federal program.  This would make it possible for CDEs to apply for a state NMTC allocation even if they did not receive a federal allocation. This recommendation has been well-received by Members of Ohio’s General Assembly. Currently, there is legislation in both the Ohio House (HB 478) and Senate (SB 309) to accomplish this.

Without additional NMTC allocation to Ohio-focused CDEs in the coming year, qualified projects in the state are not likely to benefit from the federal NMTC Program.  Open-for-Business

So, just how important is the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit Program?  Here are a few statistics you may find interesting.

The Ohio NMTC program was established by the state legislature in 2009. Since then, this effective and efficient financing tool has successfully driven investment and job growth in Ohio’s low-income communities. To date, the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers the Ohio NMTC program, has made 19 Ohio NMTC awards to nine different community development entities totaling $40 million in tax credit allocation. This equates to $102.4 million in investments. Ohio NMTC financed projects have created 557 new jobs and 1,665 construction jobs, and retained 1,670 jobs.

We will keep you up-to-date as Ohio NMTC reform legislation moves through our state legislature.  If you have questions or would like further information, please send me a note at


Two Million Ohioans, 500,000 Children Lack Access to Healthy Food

CFO Turoff addresses the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Summit in Columbus.

CFO Turoff addresses the Ohio Healthy Food Financing Summit in Columbus.

Good things happen when knowledgeable, experienced and committed people gather to address a challenge. Finance Fund met with city and state leaders, professionals from the supermarket industry, public health, economic development and civic sectors last week at a Healthy Food Financing Summit, hosted in Columbus at The Columbus Foundation. This concerned and caring group of like-minded people brought great insight to the question of how to address one of Ohio’s greatest challenges – improving access to healthy food in low-income neighborhoods.

Summit participants shared information and discussed some of the barriers that are keeping supermarkets and other fresh food retailers from operating in Ohio’s underserved areas. These include the cost and availability of land in urban neighborhoods, the difficulty of getting financing to build supermarkets in these areas, and the challenges of workforce training and retention.

A new report, entitled Food for Every Child: The Need for Healthy Food Financing in Ohio, demonstrates the scope and depth of the healthy food access problem statewide and in major Ohio cities using maps that document the connection between supermarket access, diet-related disease and neighborhood income levels. Finance Fund sponsored the study with support from the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership. The study was conducted by The Food Trust, a national expert that has researched and successfully launched food access initiatives in other states.

The study found that nearly two million Ohio residents, including more than 500,000 children, live in lower-income communities underserved by supermarkets and other healthy food retailers. At the same time, a staggering 30.8 percent of Ohio children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. People living in communities without a supermarket suffer from disproportionately high rates of obesity and diet-related diseases including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, while people living in communities with a supermarket are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. The study also notes that an investment in erasing the supermarket deficit in underserved areas would have significant economic benefits – supermarkets provide good quality jobs, serve as retail anchors and spark complementary development nearby.ProduceBasketFull

Food for Every Child concludes that “Ohio must address the critical need for more healthy food retail in many communities.” The study recommends that state and local governments in Ohio take the lead in developing a public-private response to ensure that all residents have access to the affordable, nutritious foods necessary to lead a healthy life.

Next steps in this initiative include educating policymakers about the issue and continuing conversations with stakeholders to understand the barriers to fresh food access and how to address them.  Expect a findings report in January 2015. In addition, Finance Fund will be exploring the possibility of creating a statewide healthy food retail financing fund to provide grants and loans to healthy food retail projects creating access for these underserved urban and rural communities.

If you would like to join the conversation, please contact me at or Director of Development Valerie Heiby at

CEO Klein Joins International Oxford Leadership Program

Finance Fund CEO Klein (center) attends international leadership program at Oxford with new friends Biju Mathew and Shrinath Rao.

Finance Fund CEO Klein (center) attends international leadership program at Oxford with new friends Biju Mathew and Shrinath Rao.


What a tiny world view we Americans have. Whether we know it or admit it, living in a multi-national world is more normal than abnormal.  I am honored to be among 35 invited participants to the Said Business School, University of Oxford’s Advanced Management and Leadership program. This group is made up of colleagues from 22 nationalities representing 17 different countries.

As the only U.S. citizen participant, I bring a single perspective that in this group is not only unique but quite dissimilar. My friend Josef was born in Austria and works for a Japanese company centered in Germany. Shirnath is Indian and works in Dubai for a Middle Eastern multi-national company and Fuzz is Malaysian representing a corporation with worldwide markets.  Though we are different in many ways we are the same in our basic commitment to figuring out what makes a good leader and how strategy can be effectively implemented.

Dr Johri and Dr Hugh Crisp at Christ Church College, Oxford

Dr Johri and Dr Hugh Crisp at Christ Church College, Oxford

Dr. Lalit Johri, director, has introduced us to various faculty who have presented mostly unpublished research and led us through an intriguing and insightful process that focuses our diverse experiences and perspectives to pull intuitive approaches and feedback on cutting edge revelations. It’s pretty “heady” stuff but more fun than I’ve had in a long time.

My challenge is to listen and learn during my interaction with this amazing group of colleagues and transfer some of the wisdom back home.


Idea Foundry Links Technology Space with Community Development

Finance Fund EVP Strategic Initiatives

Finance Fund EVP Strategic Initiatives


One of the exciting things about the work of Finance Fund is seeing catalytic projects develop that are on the cutting edge of neighborhood development.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to help cut the chain (more on that in a minute) on the Columbus Idea Foundry, a unique “maker space” located in Franklinton, one of Columbus’ dynamic emerging neighborhoods.

The Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF) is the brain child of Alex Bandar, a scientist turned entrepreneur who saw the opportunity to help artists, inventors, designers and fabricators to get access to critically needed – but expensive – equipment and services to develop their ideas.

CIF members get training and access to tools and technology ranging from the conventional to the high-tech.  In addition, members can tap into valuable business services such as branding, marketing, legal and accounting that are necessary to take their enterprise to the next level.

The CIF is located in a renovated warehouse in Franklinton, located west of Downtown Columbus in the original settlement area of Columbus in 1795. Over the years, the area saw disinvestment as a result of periodic flooding that also discouraged development. After construction of a long-needed floodwall, the neighborhood has been experiencing resurgence as the new place for arts, entrepreneurs and urban living.

Franklinton Development Association (FDA) Executive Director Jim Sweeney has worked hard to bring the CIF to Franklinton as part of FDA’s mission to advance housing, business, the arts and real estate activities in the neighborhood.

From left:  Jim Sweeney, Mark Barbash and Mayor Michael Coleman get ready to open the Idea Foundry.

From left: Jim Sweeney, Mark Barbash and Mayor Michael Coleman get ready to open the Idea Foundry.

Now, back to cutting the chain. Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman used a blowtorch to cut a chain as part of the CIF space dedication celebration to symbolize the vital link between manufacturing and community revitalization.

Finance Fund provided a predevelopment grant to fund FDA’s feasibility study on potential uses for the warehouse. Additional support for CIF came from the Columbus Foundation, the City of Columbus, and most recently a grant from ArtPlace America, a non-profit group that invests in projects in which “artists and arts organizations play a…central role in strategies to help shape their communities’ social, physical and economic futures.”

You can get more information on the project at or send me an email at






Kent State Hotel & Conference Center Open for Business


I recently toured the Kent State University (KSU) Hotel and Conference Center with Finance Fund EVP & Chief Financial Officer Diana Turoff, Hotel & Conference Center General Manager Mike Riccio, and Asset Manager Lawrence Carter. 

While walking the facility, I was impressed by the guest rooms, meeting spaces, common areas and the surrounding improvements to the area the hotel was a part of. On-site amenities include various conference rooms, on-site restaurants and lounge, workout facility, indoor pool and business center.

DSC_0242DSC_0250One of the meetings spaces available at KSU Hotel & Conference Center.

There are 94 guest rooms including a presidential suite that provides great views, inside the room, and outside on the balcony, to the KSU campus and its new Esplanade which connects the campus to downtown Kent. This indicates the importance of the hotel to the university’s development, as the Esplanade leads to the Hotel and Conference Center.

The KSU Hotel and Conference Center opened for business in June 2013. The hotel has received positive feedback for allowing visitors of Kent to stay in the city itself rather than traveling to Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, or other cities for the accommodations that they are looking for. The Hotel & Conference Center opens significant opportunity for international businesses that are headquartered in Kent as well as future jobs for area residents.

The hotel has been especially positive for the university leaving visitors, parents, and prospective students with a first rate impression of the university and its accommodations.

Redevelopment of the area between campus and downtown Kent required a strong public-private partnership between the Kent State University Foundation, and the Pizzuti Companies of Columbus, OH, with project investment totaling nearly $15.4 million. Finance Fund provided a total of $10.56 million in federal and state New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC).

The project generated 430 construction jobs as well as 42 permanent jobs in a community with a 29 percent poverty rate.

If you have any questions about the Kent project, please feel free to contact me. Matt Frank, Controller at 614.568.5051 or

Toledo Port’s Ironville Terminal Ready to Launch



Diana Turoff, Finance Fund CFO

Diana Turoff, Finance Fund CFO

Project site visits are the best part of my job.

I recently visited the Ironville Terminal in Toledo, Ohio on the banks of the Maumee River where the port is being readied to welcome its first oceangoing vessel.

Dredging had removed 65,000 cubic yards of sediment to provide deep water vessels with access to the newly improved dock face. A backhoe was hard at work, laying gravel for the floor of a 19,000 sq. ft. warehouse that will serve two rail spurs connecting with the nearby Norfolk Southern rail line. A new conveyor system arches across from the river to the lay down area where dry bulk materials such as grain, gravel and ore will be received. With an experienced crew, the 500 cubic yard hopper and conveyor system can load, transfer and reload tonnage between rail, trucks and ships on a 24/7 fast-turn basis.

While walking the site, I passed a massive pile of gravel that tempted me to play “king of the mountain.” Good shoes and good sense, however, kept me from making the climb. dsc_4267

All around me were signs of growth in an area where boarded-up houses and 13 percent unemployment tell the story of economic hardship following the close of an oil refinery in operation on the site from 1890 to 1987.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and Midwest Terminals share a vision for the site that includes using the 71 acres of waterfront for bulk material delivery and the remainder of the 180-acre site to receive goods for regional manufacturing operations. The site opens significant opportunity for regional and international commerce as well as future jobs for area residents.

dsc_4274Redevelopment on this massive scale required vast amounts of public-private investment totaling nearly $18 million. PNC New Markets Investment Partners, LLC, served as the investor and provided $2.5 million in federal allocation alongside Finance Fund which provided a total of $15.36 million in federal and state New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC).

If you have any questions about the Ironville project, please feel free to contact me at 800.959.2333 or

House Testimony Supports Ohio NMTC Bill


DSC_4350-2Finance Fund is leading a statewide coalition of Community Development Entities to bring about legislative change to improve the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. It was my privilege this week to testify before the House Committee on Ways and Means in support of legislation that will streamline and strengthen the program. One of our key advocates is Representative Terry Boose, a tireless economic development champion who is leading the effort in the Ohio House as sponsor of House Bill 478. We are thankful for his vision and support.

Ohio’s NMTC program is a vital tool for financing business development in low-income rural and urban communities. The program allows for reasonable returns to investors, favorable rates to Ohio businesses, and employment opportunities for working Ohioans. As Representative Boose mentioned in his sponsor testimony, by utilizing the Ohio NMTC program, businesses have financed projects that have created 557 new full-time jobs, 1,665 construction jobs, and retained 1,670 jobs.

Provisions in the Bill would:

  • Remove the real estate restriction that discourages state NMTC investments in many projects
  • Match the state and federal NMTC redemption schedules
  • Leverage Ohio’s NMTC program by decoupling it from the federal program

As a federal NMTC program allocatee, Finance Fund can apply for a state NMTC credit allocation as well. We’ve received and deployed a state allocation in each of the four rounds since the program was established in 2009.  The credits have brought a wide range of projects to life in Ohio’s communities. Here are a few examples:

DSC_0200Muskingum Aquatic/Recreation Center, Zanesville, OH 12th Congressional District

Finance Fund provided $11 million in federal NMTC and $2.56 million in state NMTC as part of a public-private partnership to build a 70,750 sq. ft. aquatic and fitness center in this economically distressed community that has a 20.4% poverty rate.  


Ronald McDonald House, Cleveland, OH 11th Congressional DistrictTreehouse

Finance Fund provided $9.2 million in federal NMTC and $2.56 million in state NMTC for the 20,000 sq. ft. expansion, adding 17 new guest rooms to the current 37. Ronald McDonald House had been unable to keep pace with the growing demand for their low-cost residential and supportive services – turning away some 600 families each year due to lack of available rooms. The expansion project renovated and reconfigured existing guest rooms, increased handicap access rooms from two to sixteen, added office, meeting and storage space and added two new common areas for families. This project created three permanent full-time jobs and 40 construction jobs in a community with 30.5% poverty rate and 17.3% unemployment rate.  

Kent State University Conference Center & Hotel Kent, OH 13th Congressional District

Kent State University opened the doors to a 95-room conference center and hotel in downtown Kent. The hotel is part of a larger $110 million redevelopment project that includes retail, office and residential space. Finance Fund provided $8 million in federal and $2.56 million in state NMTC leading to the creation of 42 permanent jobs and 430 construction jobs in a community with a 29% poverty rate. The conference center and hotel is used as a learning space for students and will also be available to area businesses to hold corporate conferences and special events.

We’d welcome your support for passage of House Bill 478 by contacting your Ohio Congressional representative. I’d be happy to discuss the legislation in detail or answer any questions. You can reach me at

A Gathering of Economic Development Champions

Miami Valley Child Development Center President/CEO Mary Burns accepts the Community Champion Award on behalf of Ahiska Turkish American Community Center.

Miami Valley Child Development Center President/CEO Mary Burns accepts the Community Champion Award on behalf of Ahiska Turkish American Community Center.

A party is always a good time. But when you are surrounded by more than 250 people who are united in their passion for driving economic development in Ohio, the good time becomes a great time. 

Finance Fund’s annual Gala was last week. It was our opportunity to shine, celebrate success, express appreciation and generate support among some of Ohio’s greatest economic development champions. Many of our guests have worked with us over many years. Others were finding out who we are, what we do and how to partner with us for the first time.

It was our great privilege to recognize Nationwide Bank as our Visionary Funder for their investment with us that helped expand our small business lending. We also named the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center as our Community Champion. This community center is a model for immigration in the Greater Dayton area providing Head Start, literacy development, job skills training and cultural enrichment to enable residents to succeed as US citizens.

We were in very good company and received sponsorship support from many valued partners including CohnReznick, our CPA firm and New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) authority, and PNC Bank, who most recently partnered with us on an important NMTC redevelopment project at the Port of Toledo. In addition, we celebrated our extraordinary Board and staff who are essential to our success – bringing energy, endless enthusiasm and commitment to fulfilling our mission.

Nationwide Bank Vice President Product and Delivery Channels Bruce Luecke (center) accepts the Visionary Funder Award.

Nationwide Bank Vice President Product and Delivery Channels Bruce Luecke (center) accepts the Visionary Funder Award.

I invite you to take a look at our newly launched corporate video. It highlights three of our important projects across Ohio – projects that otherwise might not have qualified for traditional funding. I also encourage you to take a look at our annual report for details about our work over the past year.

Certainly, economic development financing work isn’t easy. Not everyone has the technical expertise or the passion needed to champion projects that are outside of the mainstream. And Finance Fund certainly can’t do it on our own. It takes partnership with visionary public leaders and private entities, government agencies, banks, investors and clients to provide financing for catalytic projects that improve the quality of life for people.

Thank you to those who choose to partner, invest and grow with Finance Fund now and into the future. We hope to celebrate another extraordinary year with you at our annual gala next year.

Finance Fund Senior Executive Team (L to R) President & CEO James R. Klein, EVP & CFO Diana Turoff, EVP, Communications & Development Kim Scher, VP, Human Resources Suzette Grant, EVP Strategic Initiatives Mark Barbash and EVP General Counsel Andrew Swary gather for Finance Fund's Annual Gala.

Finance Fund Senior Executive Team (L to R) President & CEO James R. Klein, EVP & CFO Diana Turoff, EVP, Communications & Development Kim Scher, VP, Human Resources Suzette Grant, EVP Strategic Initiatives Mark Barbash and EVP General Counsel Andrew Swary gather for Finance Fund’s Annual Gala.








Linking Tina Fey and Finance Fund


Kim Scher, EVP Communications and DevelopmentI have a confession to make. I really like award shows. In particular, I like it when the winners cry and thank their mom or spouse for believing in them. It’s fun to see the beautiful dresses, radiant actresses and funny show hosts like Tina Fey and Ellen Degeneres. I even like the bad acceptance speeches that go overly long despite frantic signaling and the not-so-subtle band fanfare.

Maybe it’s just that I really like awards competitions and what they represent — third-party review of the work and its message. I don’t always agree with the judges’ decisions. But that’s okay. Because whoever enters an awards competition of any kind is putting their work out there for everyone to see and evaluate – and possibly learn from.

On a small, local scale, Finance Fund won four awards last week from the Central Ohio Public Relations Society of America. Our gleaming hunks of award Lucite include first place for our new corporate identity and corporate video, and second place for our  2012 annual report and this blog. It felt good to enter the work, and even better to sit among our peers and walk up to the front to receive our awards. No acceptance speeches were allowed – PR pros are much too savvy for that – but there were plenty of smiles and warm congratulations among our great community of communicators.

photoSo here they are.  Four little statues of validation. They can’t begin to convey Finance Fund’s passion for the work that we do in underserved communities. But they might encourage others to take a look at our success stories – or find out more about how to partner with us to fund projects that often don’t qualify for traditional financing.

We hope that winning these awards brings attention to our mission and those we serve. As always, thanks for following our (award-winning) blog and believing in our work.

Contact Us

P: 614.221.1114 | 800.959.2333
A: Finance Fund
175 South Third Street, Suite 1200
Columbus, Ohio 43215

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