Project managers at Fisher Professional Services didn’t know when they accepted a project with Richland Community Development Group that they would find local talent within their own group.
Paul Privara, an MBA student at the Fisher College of Business, is a 2011 business graduate at The Ohio State University at Mansfield. He has been with Walgreens for 15 years and operates the store on Park Avenue West. His knowledge of Richland County proved invaluable to the team as they created a Strategic Activities Development and Implementation Plan.
“It helps on a functional level to have someone who understands the actual culture of the community, the man-on-the-ground perspective we just weren’t going to find by doing research,” said Kurtis Roush, director, Office of Global Business at the Fisher College of Business.
The RCDG project was the third phase of an economic development project in which Ohio State has been involved. Ohio State Mansfield Dean and Director Stephen Gavazzi brought in colleague Roush to provide real-life experience for Ohio State students, while meeting a community need for strategic economic planning.
The first two phases were completed last spring by students from the City and Regional Planning program in the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture.
Phase three took the vision and segmented it into an implementable plan.
“This is basically a skill that MBA students are going to be given regularly in their corporate careers,” Roush said. “It was a great opportunity for students to practice their skills, but it was also to benefit the greater good as well.”
Bridget T. McDaniel, Executive Director of RCDG, was appreciative of the input from the students.
“It is always good to get fresh eyes on the community,” she said. “Both reports provided insight into problems and especially into possibilities.”
Privara’s role in the project included identifying key groups that could provide input on the project and interviewing community leaders about topics ranging from wayfinding and parking redesign in downtown Mansfield to attracting young professionals to the workforce through education and quality of life.
“I actually do believe in that motto ‘pay it forward,’” Privara said. “People have been really nice to me in Richland County. I’ve been able to open a business and go to school. It was my chance to give back to a community that is really in need of help at this time.”
Next steps include implementation of the plan by RCDG. The Long Range Planning Sector, who has spearheaded this effort, will be taking the information and creating actionable items for implementation.
“RCDG is dedicated to making change and these documents will provide us with a platform upon which to build. That is our commitment to the county, ” McDaniel said.