THE FUND FOR OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE (the Fund) is a non-profit alliance dedicated to advancing a vibrant and inclusive economy in northeast Ohio. Since it was formed in 2004, the Fund has involved philanthropic foundations, institutions of higher education, hospitals, economic development organizations, local governments and individuals from eighteen counties that include the cities of Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Elyria, Lorain, Youngstown and Wooster.
Between creation of the Fund and 2022, approximately $116 million was pledged and approximately $96 million was invested in various non-profit entities and projects, economic research and strategic efforts to mobilize organizations, governments and individuals. For many years, the work of the Fund has been organized around four key work areas:
- Supporting growth of new industries with potential for growth and good jobs accessible to all
- Making workforce systems perform better for people, ultimately connecting more people to career pathways with high wage potential
- Bringing jobs to people by changing the factors of company site selection decisions, moving the region from no-growth sprawl to one growing in strategic concentrations of employment
- Connecting people to employment opportunities by becoming a region where options for mobility abound
The Fund differs from other economic development efforts or entities in that it encompasses eighteen counties of the region for collaborative investment and action. Participants recognized early on that no single city or county, however large, was a stand-alone economy unto itself. While innovation and program initiatives deserving support do occur on a local level, broad strategy and measurement also must be set at a regional scale. To be competitive in the global economy, it is necessary to match governmental and civic initiatives to the geographic scale of the region’s economy as it actually functions in terms of commuting patterns, supply chains, media market coverage and other defining characteristics.
Another noteworthy feature of the Fund is that each participant meeting established requirements has a voice and vote equal to all others. Governing authority has never been weighted by the size of financial commitment. This principle is based on the recognition that no single entity or person possesses the resources to alter the trajectory of the regional economy on its own, that collaboration among many entities is essential and that broad consensus of public opinion must be nurtured.
While there has been a consistent set of values and overarching objectives over the years (click here to view a timeline of the Fund's history), the Fund has steadily evolved. Annual reports of 2017 and 2019 demonstrate the introduction of innovative ideas, refinement to tactics and major changes to governance to more fully realize Fund goals. The many initiatives and major efforts supported by the Fund, include:
- Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium
- Civic Commons
- PRISM Program
- Geography of Jobs Report
- Collaboration Handbook
- Opportunity Corridor
- The Two Tomorrows Report
- Community Investment Fund
- Job Hubs
Brad Whitehead is founding President of the Fund, serving until 2019 when Bethia Burke became the second person to serve in that leadership role. Six individuals have chaired the board of the Fund: Rob Briggs, GAR Foundation (2004-2008); David Abbott, George Gund Foundation (2008-2013); Deborah Hoover, Burton Morgan Foundation (2013-2015); Brian Frederick, Community Foundation of Lorain County (2015-2017); Mark Samolczyk, Stark County Community Foundation (2017-2021); and William Gary, Cuyahoga Community College (2021-present).
Last updated: 6/26/2022