Improving Community Health Outcomes with Geo-Caching

What do you get when you combine a leadership program class assignment with a county health outcome ranking of 76 (of 88)? A real-life ‘Pokemon-type’ outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices.


The Leadership Fayette alumni class of 2015 recently launched the geo-caching project in Washington Court House as a part of the community’s efforts to improve its health, physical and fitness outcomes of residents and visitors. Like a high-tech game of hide and seek, geo-caching appeals to people of all ages.

Anyone can participate at no cost and engage in as much or little physical activity as they desire. Because many approach geo-caching from a group or team perspective, they may make the hunt a race or a relay.

From an educational perspective, many of the caches are hidden at important historical or geographical sites in the community. Uncovering the caches of educational information helps increase awareness of an area’s cultural assets and can help build a sense of team when done with others.

It is too soon to know of the health benefits of this Fayette Leadership alumni class project. But it is clear that the local leageocache-2-2016-09-29dership development program has enabled participants to come together to collaborative in addressing a significant community challenge.

You can learn more about geocaching here.  To learn more about Leadership Fayette, go here.


Godwin Apaliyah is a Community Development Extension Educator in Fayette County (Miami Valley EERA).

All Things Community Development in Clermont County

WOW! What can one get into just six months into a brand new CD position in Clermont County? As one of two ‘seeded’ CD positions in Ohio, I have learned the answer to that question and it is a great deal of excitement!

local-foods-2016-09-22After a very engaging and successful Ohio Local Foods week in August, there was a variety of interest expressed in pursuing a center for small business owners to collaborate within Clermont County. As envisioned, this center would incorporate an incubator kitchen for cottage foods producers and other locally sourced value-added products to supply a wide variety of market sectors within the agriculture industry of Clermont County. A preliminary working group has been established to facilitate the process. Over the coming weeks the group will research facilities and design after which a larger group of producers and supporters will be convened to expand upon the foundation work and decide on the next steps in this venture.

leadership-2016-09-22Leadership! It is a basic fundamental need for any organization to perform as a well-balanced machine. We have learned from an earlier developed plan of work that addressing the needs of county elected officials is a necessity. Many of the public officials I met with during the first few months in my position confirmed this need. They have asked for education in leadership development, conducting effective meetings, communicating more effectively, and other key areas. Based upon these conversations, the Clermont County Organizational Leadership Academy has been formed. The Academy will allow public officials to build and enhance existing leadership skills and decision-making abilities through their active participation in eight ‘themed’ workshops held monthly. Learn more about the Clermont County Organizational Leadership Academy.

clermont-county-2016-09-22Through early discussions with townships and villages, many officials and community members have expressed an interest in strategic planning and goal setting for their communities. This has added to the growing excitement of expansion and redevelopment of infrastructure throughout Clermont County, and community-based projects of this nature are currently being planned.

I’ve been on the job for only six months, but it has been exciting to see people working together to address opportunities and issues. It is especially satisfying to be part of the process of bringing people together to make their communities better.

To learn more about county-based Community Development programming (Clermont County-style) please contact me, Trevor Corboy, Community Development Program Coordinator at Learn more about all of the educational opportunities and services available to you and your community through Community Development and Ohio State University Extension by visiting your local extension office or find one here.

Trevor Corboy is a Program Coordinator for Community Development in Clermont County (Miami Valley EERA).

BRE: 30 Years of Community Economic Impact

This year marked the 30-year anniversary of an Extension program that’s been delivered in nearly every county of Ohio. After 30 years, do you believe the program could still be relevant?

In just the past three weeks, two requests and a highly anticipated software announcement underscore the innovation and ongoing importance of the Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) program first conceived by OSU’s Leroy Hushak and George Morse in 1986. First, the two requests: 1) a WVU Extension Educator recently called to ask if the BRE program could serve as an effective response mechanism for a number of West Virginia counties that experienced significant flooding this summer, and 2) a new OSU Educator recently inquired about whether BRE could be used to address business gaps within a neighborhood or village setting. The answer (of course):  Yes, and yes!! 

mobile-app-2016-09-15Next, an announcement was made last week regarding a new BRE-customized mobile application that is now ready for commercial release. The mobile application is a highly anticipated outcome of a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD) multi-state collaborative grant project to elevate and expand the BRE program in the region and throughout the U.S. The team of Ohio, Indiana and Iowa researchers identified the application as a way to revolutionize how data is collected for BRE tracking and reporting. A demonstration and presentation of the mobile application will take place at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) annual conference September 25 in Cleveland (see program description and speakers below).

BRE began as a comprehensive and innovative program that brought structure to what had been informal efforts focused on improving communications between communities and companies. Since then, the formalized program has been implemented in communities of all sizes and has become a staple for many local, regional and state economic development programs throughout the world. It continues today as a dynamic program to promote business growth, job creation, and healthier economies.

A 2009 national survey found that 62% of cities and counties were doing BRE surveys with their businesses and 82% were partnering with chambers of commerce or others in BRE efforts. Despite widespread use of the program, there has been little research into best practices and how to measure the impact of ongoing BRE programs.

OSU Extension has collaborated with the IEDC to plan and organize a workshop that will explore the impact of BRE at the upcoming IEDC conference at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. It will highlight case studies presented by program representatives, demonstrate new innovations to operate or evaluate BRE programs, and offer an interactive roundtable discussion of current BRE best practices.

It is our goal that attendees will learn:

  • How BRE is used as a central component of economic development strategies
  • New methods to measure the impact of BRE
  • Best practices focused on data collection, analysis and reporting techniques

The workshop will involve the following speakers, several of whom work in Extension:

Moderator: Gwen Eberly, Economic Development Manager, Montgomery County/Community & Economic Development, Dayton, OH


  • Rick Berthiaume, Manager Economic Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, Guelph, ON, Canada
  • Nancy Bowen-Ellzey, CEcD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics, Ohio State University Extension, Lima, OH
  • David Civittolo, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Community Economics Ohio State University, Wooster, OH
  • Michael Darger, EDFP, Community Economics Specialist, University of Minnesota Extension, St. Paul, MN
  • Greg Davis, Assistant Director, Ohio State University Extension, Community Development, Columbus, OH
  • David J. Myers, CEcD, Executive Director, Ponca City Development Authority, Ponca City, OK
  • Brent Painter, Director of Economic Development, City of Strongsville, Strongsville, OH
  • Will Warren, CEcD, Consultant, Solutions Delivery, JumpStart Inc., Cleveland, OH

For more IEDC program information or to register, go to

 Nancy Bowen-Ellzey is an Associate Professor and Extension Field Specialist focused on Community Economics.

Improving Storm Hazards Resilience in Coastal Communities

Boasting beautiful beaches for sunbathing and swimming, healthy populations of walleye and perch for sport fishing, and plenty of open water for boating, Lake Erie brings both economic gain to coastal communities and enjoyment to recreation seekers. But, despite all of the fun being had in the sun, did you know that coastal storms that blow across the Lake before touching land on Ohio’s north coast bring their fair share of problems, too?

coastal-storms-2-2016-09-08Coastal storms and resulting flood events have historically been the most destructive natural hazards in northern Ohio. In fact, Ohio’s Hazards Mitigation Plan names flooding and coastal flooding as the top two most important hazards impacting the entire state. In Cuyahoga County alone, storms and heavy rains are responsible for over $650 million in damages since 1950. Making matters worse, the impacts of coastal storms are not limited to just flooding. Other hazards caused by storms can include erosion of river banks and coastline, damage to transportation routes and public utilities, combined sewer overflows, dangerous currents in the Lake, and runoff that can contribute to the formation of harmful algal blooms.

To prepare for coastal storms, it is important to understand who is most vulnerable. That is, who has the greatest potential for loss of property, infrastructure, or even human life. Some of the factors that influence a person or community’s potential for loss from natural hazards like coastal storms include: frailty and physical limitations; lack of access to resources (information, knowledge, technology); limited political power and representation; eroded social networks and connections; dilapidated building stock; and poorly maintained infrastructure (Cutter et al., 2003).

Identifying populations that are most vulnerable can help local decision makers create plans for building resilience to storm hazards. More importantly, valuable resources for hazards mitigation can be targeted at the populations that are the most in need.

This has become a priority in the Great Lakes region in recent years with the support of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Storms Program (CSP). The CSP seeks to make communities safer by reducing the loss of life and negative impacts of coastal storms via collaboration with academic institutions like The Ohio State University, government agencies, and even nongovernmental organizations to address regional priorities.

Another source of support for coastal storms research and outreach comes from the NOAA Office for Coastal Management. Specifically, their Digital Coast website provides users data, tools, and training needed to increase resiliency to severe storms and other issues facing coastal communities.

If you are interested in knowing more about how to make our north coast safer and more ecologically and economically sustainable for local populations and tourists alike, check out these additional efforts to better understand and prepare for coastal storms in the Great Lakes.

Scott Hardy is an Extension Educator with the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Cutter, S., Boruff, B., and Shirley, W. 2003. “Social Vulnerability to Environmental Hazards.” Social Science Quarterly: 84 (2) 242-261.

Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management. 2011. “Countywide All Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.” Web reference accessed 8.16.2016. <>

Ohio Department of Public Safety. 2011. “State of Ohio Hazard Mitigation Plan.” Web reference accessed 7.25.2016. <>.

NCRCRD Partnering to Maximize Efforts

How do we maximize our efforts to build human and social capital in ways that can strengthen resiliency and vitality? For one, we can partner with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development (NCRCRD), one of four rural development centers that work collaboratively across the U.S.

skidmore2013On Tuesday, a couple dozen individuals interested in learning more had a chance to share and learn with Dr. Mark Skidmore, director of the NCRCRD. Mark began as director in January 2016 and has spent the past five months meeting with faculty and staff of the land grant universities in the twelve-state north central region which includes: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Participants of the morning seminar learned that the NCRCRD’s efforts help support community capacity development in four primary areas:

  • Innovation diffusion for rural development
  • Sustainable communities
  • Leadership development
  • Entrepreneurial activities

Within each of these thematic areas, the center supports: research, development of publications and policy briefs, small grants programs ranging from $5-$25K (proposals due in early February), and professional development webinars.

During the visit, Mark learned more about programmatic needs and priorities of community development faculty and staff working in various roles throughout Ohio. Mark also shared his vision for the center; something akin to what some would describe as a ‘really big tent’ involving the various affiliated land grant institutions, communities, organizations and disciplines engaging in highly-functional partnerships.

And, in case you are wondering, while the center ‘s mission is to “address issues of interest to rural communities,” center staff also realize the inter-dependencies that exist between our rural areas and more populated urban ones. Mark said, “The center directors understand that the vitality of our urban areas is of significant interest to our rural communities (and vice versa) and this understanding is factored into the work that we support.”

Check out the center website to learn more about the center’s offerings that could support your efforts. To learn more about Mark’s visit, check out these fifteen slides.

Greg Davis is a professor and assistant director with OSU Extension.