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Ohio Economic Grants Rising

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Study says foundations' interest in development has more than doubled

Provided by Akron Beacon Journal
Written by Rick Armon

Recognizing that Ohio needs an economic boost, private and community foundations are giving more money for development efforts in the state, according to a new study.

The number of economic grants more than doubled and the total amount handed out nearly tripled to $24.6 million between 1995 and 2005, the Foundation Center said in the report, Spotlight on Economic Development Grantmaking in Ohio.

''Without a vibrant economy, people are limited in their options and it holds the region back. Thus the interest in supporting economic development,'' said Cynthia Bailie, director of the Foundation Center's Cleveland office and author of the report.

The nonprofit group analyzed grants of at least $10,000 by more than 1,000 private and community foundations in the U.S. It found that the number of grants targeted for economic development initiatives in Ohio jumped from 146 to 329.

Overall, the money given for economic development remains a small piece of foundation philanthropy — as opposed to education or arts, for example. The $24.6 million handed out in 2005 represented only 7 percent of total giving in the state.

''I really didn't expect it to be that high,'' Bailie said.

Because the report was the first of its kind, she said, the Foundation Center could not compare Ohio to other states.

''Anecdotally, there seems to be more interest here than other places,'' Bailie said. ''The work that is happening here is forging new paths for others.''

As an example, she cited the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaborative philanthropic group working on the region's economy. Its members include private companies, individuals and foundations.

Knotice, an Akron company that created special marketing software, received $500,000 in venture capital funding two years ago from Cleveland-based JumpStart, a group that has received grants from private foundations to help start-up companies.

The financial help was not only important for the company, but also the region, said Brian Deagan, Knotice co-founder and chief executive officer.

''You can run down the laundry list of why people should stay in Northeast Ohio and move to Northeast Ohio, but at the end of the day if you don't have good jobs at good companies to back it up, those other initiatives aren't going to be successful,'' he said.

The primary focus of the Hudson-based Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which helped fund the study, is to make economic development grants. Since it was formed in 1967, the group has given out more than $70 million.

The recipients have included colleges, SCORE and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Foundation President Deborah Hoover said she has seen increased attention on the economy by other foundations.

''All of us feel this greater sense of responsibility because the whole U.S. economic system is being challenged by this globalization of the markets and we need to play a stronger role in bolstering what goes on in the United States,'' she said.