Fund for Economic Future Focuses on Worker Mobility

CLEVELAND — Members of the Fund for Our Economic Future have approved a $300,000 grant to launch a worker mobility project that would improve access to jobs in northeast Ohio.

Voting members of the fund, those who contribute $100,000 or more over three years, approved the grant June 7 during a board meeting at Kent State University at Stark.

“There is a growing geographic divide between workers and jobs in our region as development expands outward without an increase in the number of people or jobs,” said Peter Truog, the fund’s director of civic innovation, in a news release. “This makes it harder for businesses to access talent and for residents to access jobs.”

Northeast Ohio residents spend between 24%  and 29% of their income on transportation, a large part of which is the cost of commuting to work. Workers without cars face difficult commutes on public transportation because the region’s jobs are no longer concentrated along fixed transportation routes, according to the grant announcement.

“This spatial mismatch is inefficient, ineffective, and amounts to distance discrimination that undermines our region’s long-term economic competitiveness,” Truog said.

Innovations in mobility, including peer-to-peer services, ride-sharing and micro-transit, could radically change the way residents connect to work, he continued. Funding will enable the hiring of a director of mobility innovation to co-design, implement and evaluate innovations that can demonstrably improve access to jobs.

Fund members also approved a one-year award of up to $550,000 to Team NEO, the regional economic development organization, that will support an inclusive job hub strategy and a commitment to systemic racial inclusion.

Earlier this quarter, the fund’s executive cmmittee approved a $50,000 grant to Policy Matters Ohio that will fund research to estimate the number residents in the region with a criminal record, document the implications this poses to job seekers, and quantify the economic cost of collateral sanctions. The fund anticipates releasing this research later this summer.

The Fund for Our Economic Future is an alliance of foundations, corporations, universities, health care systems, business and civic associations, government entities, and individuals who pool their resources and know-how to advance economic growth. Since it was established in 2004, the fund has raised nearly $100 million for its efforts, which have helped retain or create 33,900 jobs, adding $1.5 billion in payroll and bringing $8.4 billion in capital to northeast Ohio.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.