The Scioto Foundation’s Annual Meeting took a new twist this year with the presentations by two speakers who focused on the subject of economic development for Portsmouth and Scioto County.
Scioto Foundation (SF) Board of Governors Chairman Josh Howard welcomed a good representation of government, business and community leaders, Scioto Foundation donors and grantees, educators and others before introducing speakers Jason Kester, Southern Ohio Port Authority director, and special consultant Matt Martin, program director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership since 2010.
Kester reported on two grants totaling $17,500 awarded by the Scioto Foundation to SOPA to help fund major economic development projects, $10,000 for an economic development website, and $7,500 to complete matching funds required for Portsmouth to participate in the America’s Best Communities national grant competition.
Kester also updated Scioto Foundation guests about Scioto County’s new land bank project which is in the process of being created with the endorsement of city and county officials. In partnership with SOPA, the Scioto Foundation has awarded a grant of $15,000 to provide funds for a consultant to help with the land bank start-up.
Martin described Warren and Trumbull Counties’ strategies used in implementing community revitalization and land bank projects.
After giving background on his community which has many of the same problems as Portsmouth typical of a shrinking city, Martin stressed the importance of community outreach in developing a revitalization plan. Engaging residents and sharing data with them, TNP developed neighborhood plans for each part of Warren and prioritized properties for demolition or renovation in the southwestern part of town. A majority of the projects were on land bank properties, he said.
Martin described several areas targeted for reclaiming vacant spaces through demolition and land use with the help of a $5.2 million dollar federal grant to launch the Trumbull Neighborhood Program goals. His Power Point presentation illustrated a variety of development endeavors such as a garden district, a children’s garden, public art projects, park improvements and farmers’ markets, in addition to the renovation and demolition of buildings and houses. He cited partnerships with churches, youth groups, university urban design students, corporations, and a “Lots to Love” program which came together to accomplish new land uses. Huntington Bank has been a key partner in community development achievements.
Martin also offered details about funding achieved and processes utilized by the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnerships including a real estate developers’ program, in-house renovations by TNP itself, and an “Adopt a Home” project in which private investors donated $25,000 to renovate a house in one Warren neighborhood. Asked in a follow-up question and answer session about the most important things TNP learned in their community economic development, Martin emphasized reaching out to the community and making sure neighborhoods are involved, and obtaining the data first to support desired results.