Ohio Healthy Food Effort Makes News

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

State and local officials, nonprofit development groups and grocers have made increased access to healthy affordable food an Ohio priority in 2015. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently ran a story that highlights Ohio’s efforts.  The paper’s Washington Bureau Chief Stephen Koff writes, “A study by the Columbus-based Finance Fund, and Philadelphia-based partner, The Food Trust, found that more than 2 million Ohio residents, including 500,000 children, live in neighborhoods underserved by supermarkets.  They may have access to food at corner stores, but it is unlikely to be fresh or healthy.”

In Ohio, the Healthy Food Financing (HFF) Task Force of state agencies, foundations, grocers, corporations and nonprofit health and food access organizations reviewed the Food Study findings and identified barriers preventing healthy food retailers from locating in low-income communities. The HFF Task Force is now finalizing policy recommendations to help address those barriers.

One of the recommendations is to build a flexible business financing program that leverages additional capital to stimulate the development, renovation and expansion of healthy food retailers — ranging from fresh food carts, food hubs, community stores and grocery store chains to corner stores, co-ops, wholesale grocers, community kitchens, and farmer’s markets — in areas where they are needed most. 

As the article notes: “Part of the problem is age and density: Cities, though full of potential customers, are old and lack clean, green space.  A potential deal can take years to develop.  In a report this year, the Finance Fund and The Food Trust identified challenges including high development costs, land assembly, regulatory requirements, workforce turnover and training issues, security concerns and customer transportation.”

In an interview for the Plain Dealer story, Nate Filler, president of the Ohio Grocers Association and a member of the HFF Task Force, said, “The grocery industry operates on a one-and-a-half-percent margin.” Incremental costs, whether for insurance, lighting or extra staff training, eat into that. “We want to be able to be around for the area long after the ribbon cutting. We want to be sustainable for the community.”

Caroline Harries, associate director of the Food Trust, estimates that Ohio could support about 100 more stores.  The experience of the Food Trust has been invaluable. This national nonprofit is dedicated to increasing access to healthy and affordable foods. It was part of a coalition that attracted about 90 new food operations to Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2010.

Watch for further news on the policy recommendations which will be announced in mid-January.  Your questions and comments are welcome at kscher@financefund.org.  

The Arts Matter to Economic Development

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Arts and cultural institutions such as theaters, museums and galleries as well as public art installations are an important part of creating livable communities.  They add unique flavor and nuance to each community, enhance civic vitality, and invigorate our lives and public spaces.

Earlier in December, I moderated a panel that focused on financing to sustain Ohio’s arts and cultural ecosystem, held at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus. More than 160 “keepers of culture” from around Ohio attended this first-of-a-kind conference dedicated to finding ways to enhance the state’s quality of life through the arts. 
The panelists included David Alexander, commercial banking relationship manager at US Bank; Jason Rittenberg, director of research and advisory services at Council of Development Finance Agencies, and Hugh Grefe, senior executive director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation. 

Two of the organizations highlighted are Finance Fund partners:

  • Franklinton Development Association (FDA) Executive Director Jim Sweeney described how FDA is
    Franklinton Mural

    Franklinton Mural

    encouraging the link between art, community and innovation through such projects as the Columbus Idea Foundry, the Franklinton Urban Scrawl festival and the development of artists’ life/work spaces.

  • Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. was represented by Executive Director Tim Tramble, who described their work in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood to support housing and commercial development, along with art- based community building initiatives.

Other highlights of the day-long session included a keynote presentation from Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America. This Cleveland native is a recognized leader in community based arts projects that are transformational. Also on the podium was fellow Buckeye Matthew Fluharty, director of Art of the Rural, a nonprofit group in St. Louis that works to support arts projects in rural America and expand the rural arts and humanities network.

Throughout the day, one facet of every conversation was very clear:  as communities seek ways to stand out, progress economically and attract more businesses and residents, many are turning to the arts to transform public venues, reinforce culture and regenerate places to live, work and play.

Rethinking Change Within Our Ideological Framework

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

Finance Fund President and CEO James R. Klein

The times are always changing and Finance Fund is changing along with them to meet market needs. As we prepare to embark on a New Year, I find myself reflecting on our work in 2014. Our internal and external evolution stems from rethinking change and our responsibility and position within current and emerging economic systems.

Our focus in 2014 was threefold. Internally, we combined our Program and Fiscal teams under one team leader to increase efficiencies. Programmatically, we identified and prioritized funding programs to meet growing community need including accelerating our small business lending activity. In development, we expanded our outreach to a wider range of public and private revenue sources to enable greater mission fulfillment.

In the midst of these evolutionary changes, however, we’ve remained true to our founding mission, vision and the following core business ideologies:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Our years of steady outreach to state and federal policymakers in service to our industry bore great fruit in 2014. A few examples: Finance Fund started the year off by leading a coalition of Ohio CDEs to strengthen the Ohio NMTC program. We also expanded our position on the national stage on the executive boards of the CDFI Coalition and NMTC Coalition to influence positive change with policymakers on Capitol Hill.

Address Systems not Symptoms

Finance Fund sees community development as being most effective when it is focused on addressing the systems, rather than managing the symptoms of economic decline (e.g., government subsidies for food, housing, health care and child care). We are focused on ushering in change in new collaborative ways, disrupting obsolete and fragmented systems, creating opportunity and connecting low-income communities to economic opportunities.

No Margin, No Mission

The economic revitalization industry, and Finance Fund in particular, is filled with people who feel a calling to help others achieve a better quality of life. This altruism fuels great work where it is needed most, but must be supported with a positive net margin or our ability to achieve our mission will be under threat.

Let the Market Work

The free market system, which has generated great prosperity for our nation for more than a century, is under increased government burdens such as regulation, an overly complex tax code and massive debt, owned in large part by foreign investors.  We believe it is necessary for government to simplify regulations and the tax code, and have a more balanced budget strategy – thereby allowing the free market system to work more effectively.

Supplement, Don’t Circumvent

Optimal resource allocation requires that we understand the roles of public and private investors already at work in addressing key economic issues. Finance Fund comes alongside existing programs to provide gap financing where traditional bank lending cannot be extended. Through careful analysis of unmet community need, we avoid the cost and ineffectiveness of circumventing existing programs.

These business ideologies will continue to shape our actions on behalf of Ohio’s underserved communities.  We celebrate the accomplishments of this year and look forward to achieving even greater mission impact in the year ahead with the support of our exceptional staff, Board and Advisory Council leadership, partners, supporters, funders and friends. 

Grassroots Activism Creates Health Care System

Julie Nichols, Quality Assurance Analyst

Julie Nichols, Quality Assurance Analyst

It is always extremely satisfying to see a grassroots movement take shape, then take effect. Ordinary people, united by a common vision and working collaboratively can achieve extraordinary things.

I recently attended an open house for the new Valley View Health Center project created by the Community Action Committee of Pike County (CACPC). The project helps address the dramatic need for quality, affordable health care services in the area. A group of concerned citizens established CACPC in 1965 in Waverly, OH, to promote self-sufficiency among Pike County’s low-income population and address major causes of poverty. CACPC began delivering intermittent primary care health services in September 1978. A year later, CACPC was granted Rural Health Initiative funding then became a Federally Qualified Health Center in April 1994.

Today, CACPC operates six health care centers and offers 75 programs aimed at serving the needs of each member of the family, from pediatrics to geriatrics. The current organizational budget exceeds $19 million and is funded through federal, state, and local grants as well as locally generated fees-for-service. 

Valley View provides quality medical, mental health and dental  services.

Valley View provides quality medical, mental health and dental services.

Finance Fund provided CACPC with a $150,000 economic development grant to help purchase a 5,000 sq. ft. building where comprehensive primary medical, mental health and dental services are provided. The target population for this project is all persons with an income below 200% of the poverty rate who reside in six contiguous census tracts and surrounding neighborhoods of Portsmouth, OH. The project has created four full-time jobs, one part-time job and six construction jobs and will dramatically improve access to health care in the affected area. 

Innovative Approaches to a Self-sufficient Ohio

Philip E. Cole, OACCA Executive Director

Philip E. Cole, OACCA Executive Director

Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope and improves communities. Last week nearly 50 Community Action leaders from across Ohio gathered at the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies’ (OACAA) Innovation Summit to collaborate, discuss and create innovative ideas to serve the needs of low-income people. Throughout the day, executive directors, program managers and senior staff members ignited a creative spark in each other by sharing innovative programs developed within their own communities, spurring new ideas that could be adapted in other communities.

With the ideas flowing and the minds churning out new solutions, one question was consistent: How can we fund these programs?

That afternoon, one potential answer was presented: grants and loans from Finance Fund. Tara Campbell, Vice President of Lending, joined the summit to discuss innovative financing options for innovative programs.

Finance Fund has been a consistent partner to Ohio’s Community Action Network by providing grants, loans, tax-credits and a variety of other financing options to help fund projects. Their mission of building bridges to underserved communities aligns with our network’s mission to alleviate poverty and help low-income people achieve self-sufficiency.

At the end of the summit, our attendees left feeling invigorated and excited to begin the next steps of research and development. The passion of our network, matched with the passion of Finance Fund, has resulted in the creation and implementation of innovative programs across Ohio’s 88 counties. We are grateful to have Finance Fund’s continued partnership as we move forward creating new projects and initiatives.


Philip E. Cole is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, University of Toledo College of Law and the Executive Scholars Program of the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. Mr. Cole has been the executive director of OACAA since 1989 and manages government and members relations as well as the OACAA staff.


“Trust Your Gut” Wisdom from a Former White House Staffer

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, Finance Fund EVP Communications and Development

Recently, I joined several hundred women from all walks of life who were enlightened and entertained by Alyssa Mastromonaco, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the White House, from 2011 to 2014. She spoke at the 2014 Barbara K. Fergus Women in Leadership Lecture hosted by the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. In a blog about leaving the White House, Alyssa writes: No advanced degree or job experience truly prepares you for the tidal wave of responsibility and the sheer gravity of history that beckons each day. The Arab Spring. Newtown. Hurricane Sandy. The Affordable Care Act. It is one of those jobs that never really leaves you.

In her feisty, warm, candid discussion of her career journey, Alyssa shared lessons learned along the way that helped shape her success. Her love of language prompted her to major in French and Japanese at the University of Vermont.  As a student, she learned the importance of connecting with people who share her personal interests – such as a passion for The Grateful Dead and Pilates. Later in her career, this insight enabled her to develop enduring relationships. “It’s important to create a bond beyond the work relationship so that when things go wrong you have something deeper to fall back on,” she noted.

Alyssa is grateful that her parents allowed her to make her own choices in college and career.  “You’ll never really succeed if you are coddled. You must give people the room to succeed or fail on their own,” she said. “It’s best to live on high wire every day. When making judgments, trust your gut and have confidence in your decisions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

Her advice to women of all ages is simple and direct: “Work hard. Be kind. Own your own failures so you can own your own successes.  Always maintain your integrity. Never pretend to be anything you are not. Be yourself to succeed – this creates confidence in all aspects of work. It’s OK to ask questions of experts. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Help others. Pass it on.”

Great advice from someone who made The New Republic’s list of Washington’s most powerful, least famous people.

Her career journey is remarkable. A campaign internship for then-Representative Bernie Sanders ignited her love of politics and taught her how to effectively manage chaos, resources and people. A brief stint as a paralegal in New York after graduating with a BA in Political Science, taught her how to work in a professional environment as part of a team. These skills saw her through a multi-faceted political career that included work on Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and as Press Secretary for Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia before joining then-Senator Barack Obama’s team as Director of Scheduling in 2005. Six years, a winning election and several positions later she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the White House.

When asked what’s next in her career, Alyssa said, “You don’t have to be scared. Ask yourself: What do I like to do? What am I good at? Who do I like to work with? Look for an adventure and an opportunity to be engaged and have influence.” On Monday, Vice Media, a news and entertainment group, announced that it has hired Alyssa as its chief operating officer.

Republicans Sweep Ohio Statewide Offices, Incumbents Hold Seats in U.S. House of Representatives

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

Director of Public Affairs Andy Hardy

It was a favorable Election Day 2014 for Republicans in Ohio. They swept all of the statewide offices for the second consecutive election in contests that included the Governor’s Office, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justices as well as seats in the Ohio General Assembly. Also Incumbents from Ohio’s Congressional Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives were able to maintain the status quo. Following is a recap of election results by office.

Governor – Incumbent Governor John Kasich received 64% of the vote in reelection to his second term, winning 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Challengers Ed FitzGerald (D) and Anita Rios (Green Party) received 33% and 3% of the vote respectively.

Secretary of State – Incumbent Jon Husted was successful with 60% of the vote against Nina Turner (Democrat), a State Senator from Cleveland who received 35%, and Kevin Knedler (Libertarian) with 4.6% of the vote.

Treasurer – Incumbent Josh Mandel successfully won reelection with 57% of the vote to remain in his spot as Ohio’s Treasurer. Challenger Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) a State Representative received 43% of the vote.

Auditor – Incumbent Dave Yost was elected to another term as Auditor by 57% of Ohio’s voters. Auditor Yost faced State Representative John Patrick Carney (D), and Libertarian Bob Bridges. Carney and Bridges received 38% and 4.7% of the voteRepublican-democrat-symbols respectively.

Attorney General – Incumbent Mike DeWine also won reelection, beating challenger David Pepper by a margin of 62% to 38%. 

Ohio Supreme Court – Two Ohio Supreme Court Justice seats were on the ballot this November. Justice Sharon Kennedy defeated challenger Tom Letson, a current State Representative from Warren, by a significant margin of 73% to 27%. Justice Judi French defeated challenger Judge John O’Donnell, a current judge on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas by a margin of 56% to 44%.  Justice French was appointed by Governor John Kasich for the high court and assumed the Office on January 1, 2013.

Ohio House of Representatives – The Ohio House Republican Caucus added 5 seats to their majority in the General Assembly. The Republicans now hold 65 seats to the 34 held by Democrats. 

Ohio Senate – As in the Ohio House of Representatives, the Republicans were successful in retaining control of the Ohio Senate. The Ohio Senate Republican Caucus maintained its 23-10 advantage.

U.S. House of Representatives – Ohio’s Midterm elections for the U.S. House of Representatives saw every incumbent in the State retain their seat. Therefore, Ohio’s 16 U.S. Congressional Districts will continue to be represented by 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.

1st District: Congressman Steve Chabot (R)

2nd District: Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R)

3rd District: Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D)

4th District: Congressman Jim Jordan (R)

5th District: Congressman Bob Latta (R)

6th District: Congressman Bill Johnson (R)

7th District: Congressman Bob Gibbs (R)

8th District: Congressman John Boehner (R-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives)

9th District: Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D)

10th District: Congressman Mike Turner (R)

11th District: Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D)

12th District: Congressman Pat Tiberi (R)

13th District: Congressman Tim Ryan (D)

14th District: Congressman Dave Joyce (R)

15th District: Congressman Steve Stivers (R)

16th District: Congressman Jim Renacci (R)

As Congress returns for the lame duck session, we will provide an update on the legislative outlook for key issues including the tax extenders package.


Sustaining Ohio’s Arts and Culture Ecosystem

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

All around Ohio, local communities see a vibrant arts and culture scene as an important community development asset. Throughout the state, theaters, museums and art galleries provide education and entertainment to both visitors and residents alike.

Just travel to Nelsonville where Stuart’s Opera House hosts over 75 events a year….or to Wooster where Ohio Light Opera has become a national attraction… to Marietta where local community leaders are working to complete a major revitalization of their theater… or to Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood where the Gordon Square Arts district is the cornerstone of a lively entertainment district.

GSAD_CoverBut obtaining funding for arts and cultural projects has become more difficult over the past few years. At the same time, operation and renovation costs have increased significantly.

To help understand and work with these challenges, Finance Fund is collaborating with a number of other organizations to sponsor a first of its kind state-wide conference on sustainability strategies for the staff, boards and volunteers of Ohio’s arts and cultural organizations.

The conference, which will take place on December 9th  at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, will provide a great networking opportunity along with informative sessions on Financing Strategies for Arts and Culture, Fundraising Campaigns and Board Engagement, Financial Literacy for Capital and Programming, Collaboration and Creative Placemaking, Creating Advocacy Networks and Finding Funding Sources.

The keynote speaker will be Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, which is a unique collaboration of foundations, financial institutions and federal agencies to promote the inclusion of the arts in community development strategies.

Finance Fund is working with Heritage Ohio, the Ohio Arts Council, the Council on Development Financing Association, Ohio Citizens for the Arts, the Ohio History Connection, Bricker & Eckler and the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District, among others, to sponsor this conference.

You can obtain additional information and register for the conference here.

Five Rules for Staying on Economic Development’s Cutting Edge

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

Mark Barbash, EVP Strategic Initiatives

I recently shared “Five Rules of Staying at the Cutting Edge of Economic Development” at the annual Van Wert City Economic Development Partnership dinner. It was refreshing to get into the heart of Ohio to see firsthand the importance of Ohio’s smaller communities in the state’s growth. The Van Wert community has a strong manufacturing base, a connection with the area’s agricultural base, a great Vantage Career Center, strong elected leaders and involved business leaders.

My invitation to speak came from Cynthia Leis, a program director with OSU Extension who works in partnership with the City of Van Wert, area businesses, colleges and Chambers. OSU Extension plays an important role in Ohio in providing economic development services to many small communities. Their services are particularly valuable at a time when resources are limited.

Here are the five rules I shared with an audience of Van Wert area business and community leaders:

    • Think Regionally:  A community is part of the area’s regional economy. Businesses make investment decisions based upon workforce availability, proximity to customers and suppliers. They don’t care about political boundaries.

    • Leadership and Collaboration: A community’s success is based upon elected and business leaders working together.

    • Be Prepared: Businesses can make investment decisions very quickly. They may look at your community for a new site even without talking with the community. So when the opportunity comes up, the community has to be ready.

    • The Best Attraction Strategy is a good Retention and Expansion Strategy: Communities looking to bring new businesses into their area should start by making sure that their existing businesses are successful. Location decisions are based upon partnerships.

    • The Kitchen Sink Rule: Incentives are only one part of the strategy. A community doesn’t need to give away the “kitchen sink” in incentives. Equally important is the quality of life in a community (education, affordable housing, parks and recreation).

As EVP of Strategic Initiatives at Finance Fund, I get the great job of meeting with businesses of all sizes and community champions to learn more about what’s needed in local communities to drive job and economic growth. These discussions inform Finance Fund’s program development process and ensure that we are creating loan and grant programs that are responsive to local needs. Our Small Business Loan Fund, Community Health Loan Fund and Healthy Food Financing Initiative are great examples of flexible financing tools we’ve developed in direct response to needs identified by rural and urban communities.

We’d welcome the opportunity to meet with you to learn more about your community and share details about the flexible loan and grant funds we have available for projects in low-income urban and rural communities – for projects that typically don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan. Please feel free to contact me at markbarbash@financefund.org.

Harvesting Changes to Ohio’s Menu

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Kimberly Scher, EVP Communications and Development

Vegetable soup, pot roast, zucchini bread, fried apples, roasted butternut squash, potato onion tart, eggplant parmesan – I recently pulled out my recipes and made plans to cook up some of the sweet, savory, satisfying flavors of fall.  My grocery list is full of fresh ingredients, herbs and spices that go into making memorable meals that will fill my family with healthy food.  My favorite farmer’s market will supply a lot of what’s on my list and I can always head to my neighborhood grocery for the rest. 

I never spent much time thinking about where to shop for or how to afford the food my family enjoys.  Like most people, I dislike the hassle of driving to the grocery or farmer’s market and lugging everything into the house. Other than that, preparing healthy meals and spending family time around the table are some of the best parts of daily life.

My perspective on food access has changed, however, as I work on Finance Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative aimed at getting more healthy affordable fresh food retailers into underserved communities across Ohio. Each time I pick up a bag of apples, slice a pepper, toss a salad or reach for the milk, I think about families who can’t easily get to a grocery store because it’s a taxi cab ride or three bus transfers away. Or can’t afford fresh food on a limited budget or outside of SNAP or WIC benefits. Or have no idea how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables for their family. Instead, many people eat a high-fat, high-sodium diet of processed foods available at local corner stores – or fast food that’s inexpensive and easy to access in their neighborhood.

fall-vegetable-hash-sl-lThe crushing health implications for Ohio are staggering.

Close to one million Ohioans live in the crucible of greatest need — at the intersection of high rates of diet-related death, low-income, and poor access to supermarkets according to findings of Finance Fund’s statewide Food Study, conducted by The Food Trust with support from the Ohio Regional Convergence Partnership.

Caroline Harries, from The Food Trust, and I shared details of the Food for Every Child report at a recent statewide coalition meeting sponsored by the Philanthropy Ohio Health Initiative. Dr. Andrew Wapner, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), was also on the agenda and presented Ohio’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Chronic Disease: 2014 – 2018.  The plan notes that chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are the leading causes of death and disability in Ohio.  Associated risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, inactivity and poor nutrition are driving more than $50 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost work productivity. The ODH plan strives to prevent more than 600,000 new cases of diet-related disease by:

  • Increasing access to healthy food
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Encouraging preventive health screenings

Finance Fund is helping by creating a statewide fund that will better enable healthy food providers to enter low-income markets. Currently, we are talking with stakeholders statewide to better understand the barriers and address the policies that are keeping healthy food providers from serving markets where there is greatest need.

As you think about the bounty that fall provides, please consider what you and your organization can do to educate, support and fund efforts to bring the harvest to every Ohioan’s table.  If you’d like to learn more about the Food Study and how you can come alongside Finance Fund to improve access to healthy food in Ohio, please contact me at kscher@financefund.org.

Contact Us

P: 614.221.1114 | 800.959.2333
E: info@financefund.org
A: Finance Fund
175 South Third Street, Suite 1200
Columbus, Ohio 43215

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