The Franklin County Commissioners this morning announced that the county will be participating in a two-year pilot program to develop entrepreneurs and small businesses in underserved communities in Central Ohio. The program is part of a partnership among the commissioners, the Columbus Foundation, the Columbus Partnership, and Rev1 Ventures, and with the national non-profit, Forward Cities. The accelerator will be headed by a new Local Director of Community Entrepreneurship, L.C. Johnson of Columbus who will report to a new Franklin County Inclusive Entrepreneurship Council.
Forward Cities is a capacity building and learning network of cities and counties committed to advancing inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in their communities. Launched in 2014, and comprised of more than two dozen communities, including Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Dayton, Forward Cities accelerates equitable opportunity in innovation and entrepreneurship, and fosters shared learning among the participating cities. Franklin County is part of a 2019 cohort of participants that includes Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh.
“Franklin County’s robust economic growth has transformed our community into Ohio’s largest and most successful,” said Board of Commissioners President, Marilyn Brown. “In order to sustain our growth and ensure everyone shares in our prosperity, we must take an intentional approach for inclusive growth that reaches every resident, on every street, in every neighborhood.”
Through the new Forward Cities accelerator, the commissioners hope to be able to begin to close wealth gaps and increase economic mobility in underserved neighborhoods in Franklin County by increasing the number of entrepreneurs among underrepresented communities who are building small businesses and employing their neighbors.
“The small, locally-owned network of restaurants, shops, and franchises are a part of the fabric and personality of any community,” said Commissioner John O’Grady. “But some neighborhoods don’t have very many businesses like that. It’s bad for people in the neighborhood, and it’s bad for our whole community to have pockets that lack jobs, services, and entrepreneurs.”
Forward Cities aims to identify local assets and leverage national best practices to connect small businesses in struggling neighborhoods with appropriate investors, lending, expertise, and mentoring. It helps cities measure and benchmark their progress against other cities, as well as measuring the effectiveness of local efforts.
“We’re excited to launch this community-led, research-driven accelerator in Franklin County,” said Forward Cities CEO Christopher Gergen. “This work is foremost about strengthening the inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in neighborhoods, so we look forward to working very closely with the county, our partners, and with grassroots leaders who are representative of the communities we are looking to serve.”
“We know that small businesses are most likely to hire from within their own communities,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “So we want to identify types of businesses that are lacking in certain areas as potential opportunities for entrepreneurs, and help fill those gaps by connecting small businesspeople with investors.”
The program’s $250,000 annual budget will be split among the partners, and the Columbus Foundation will be providing office space for the new program. For more information about Forward Cities, visit ForwardCities.org
, and for more information about the commissioners’ Economic Development efforts, visit Development.FranklinCountyOhio.gov