The Relevance of Community Strategic Planning in Corporate Location Decision-Making

In recent years, many communities have been encouraged to invest in “greenfield” development sites as a way to attract large manufacturing and distribution operations. This is also taking place at a time when such businesses are changing the way they make decisions about where to locate and expand. These business decisions have far-reaching implications for communities. Some businesses may decide to visit and negotiate for community incentives; others may want to know what communities are doing to improve the business climate. However, these incentives alone may not secure a relocation or expansion project for the community. It is becoming apparent that businesses are also interested in the contents of a community’s strategic plan.

A community’s strategic plan might not seem important. However, when it considers things such as a community’s workforce, business attraction and retention approaches, and an integration of economic and community development, the plan can be very helpful in expediting the site selection process.

How can strategic planning help businesses decide where to locate?

Companies look for employees with experience in cutting-edge manufacturing, robotics, and other fields. A strategic plan enables community leaders to bring existing key business and educational institution leaders together to discuss each other’s needs and find solutions for them.

Community members participate in community strategic planning process

Community members share in the community strategic planning process.

Although attracting new businesses is a common economic development strategy, research indicates that about 80 percent of all new jobs in a community come from existing businesses. A strategic plan that takes into account the need to retain and expand a community’s existing businesses may indicate to potential new businesses that the community is dedicated to assisting its businesses to become more competitive.

Companies want to see how communities foster social and economic integration by the way they plan to address local issues such as housing, education, healthcare, and cultural diversity. They also want to see how all stakeholders — residents, community-based organizations, public agencies, and the private sector — work together to promote residents and community quality of life.

Fayette County, Ohio recently revised and updated its strategic plan to provide a vision and a vehicle for creating short- and long-term community and economic growth for residents and businesses in the community. The vision considered all the vital elements: workforce, business attraction and retention, and importance of integration of economic and community development. The community’s workforce plan involves implementing youth workforce programs, including a Manufacturing Day Tour and a Career Expo for high school students.

The community’s business retention and expansion strategies support and develop existing businesses. This pro-business attitude can add to the attractiveness of the community as an excellent environment for new businesses. Most importantly, the community has nearly 1800 acres of “greenfield” development acreage (1,600 acres for the county and 200 acres for the City of Washington Court House). These “greenfield” development sites have infrastructure, including utilities and water, available on site for investors seeking a business location.

Community strategic planning has helped in Fayette County. How might it help in your community?

Reference:

http://www.areadevelopment.com/corporate-site-selection-factors/Q4-2017/importance-of-community-strategic-planning-location-decision.shtml


Apaliyah, GodwinGodwin Tayese Apaliyah is an Extension educator in Fayette County.

Building Consumer & Producer Relations

It’s safe to say that during any conversation the notion of change will be brought up: “I remember when gas was only $1 a gallon.” “Most cars were standard transmissions, and now my car is going to drive ITSELF?” Some of us may or may not be familiar with these changes. But one change that affects us all is the change within our food. Whether you are a producer looking to stay afloat in a changing market or you are loading your cart up at the grocery store, we are ALL consumers.

handshake

If we are all consumers, then shouldn’t keeping up with changes in consumer demand be easy for producers? I mean, they can adapt right along with the market, right? Well, that may be the case if we all thought the same way and had the same preferences. Since there are numerous preferences and several production methods, how are consumers and producers supposed to be on the same page? Relationships. In a world where we can reach thousands of people via social media in a matter of minutes, everyone should know immediately when preferences shift and be able to adjust accordingly….well, not exactly.

Today, we are great at communicating, but how well do we converse? What’s the difference? On social media we communicate by displaying information about what we want or what we do, but this can leave that information open to different interpretations and lead to misconceptions about what consumers really want and what producers are actually doing. Sometimes this leads to more debate on who is right or wrong rather than allowing producers and consumers to work together. We all can do a better job of conversing to better understand each other’s ideas and practices. With so many different needs, ideas, and preferences, it may seem impossible to get everyone on the “same-page.” This is where Extension can play a huge role, and this is why I am so passionate about my job.

Recently, our team of Extension professionals has been conducting Beef Quality Assurance Trainings (BQA). I have been conducting these trainings with Brooke Beam of Highland County, Gigi Neal of Clermont County, and David Dugan of Adams County. At these trainings we converse about what consumer changes are developing and how we can meet those needs. We speak about practices that ensure producers can consistently provide a safe and wholesome product from start to finish. We also answer several questions about what consumers are wanting and what they are concerned about. A few Extension educators can’t answer all of the questions or tie up all of the loose-ends within the industry, but we give those who attend the ability to educate others and set good examples. Over the last three trainings we have trained close to 300 individuals.

cattle

Now that producers are being trained, how are consumers supposed to know what is going on within the industry and where their product is coming from? Just as a few educators cannot communicate with every producer, we cannot reach every consumer either. Companies such as Wendy’s and Tyson have helped serve as a voice for consumers by stating they will only accept beef from BQA certified producers. Wherever cattle are sold, producers will be able to prove they are BQA certified and follow the practices to provide a safe and high quality product. Consumers do not always get to meet the producer and discuss the product they are buying, but allowing everyone to become familiar with the guidelines of this certification will help bridge the gap between the unknown and serve as a common language for everyone. Even if several producers already implement these practices, the BQA certification can help pass on that information.

We are taking steps to build relationships in all areas of food production, not only within beef production. For example, in October the OSU Direct Food and Marketing Team along with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service will be visiting Brown County to discuss how producers can enter various markets. They will share more about what consumers are looking for and how they can build relationships in several different markets.

As I talk about training producers to understand the needs of consumers, it is important too for us all to remember what I mentioned earlier. There are numerous preferences, and none is more right or wrong than another. There is no universal way to meet each other’s needs. This can only be understood through conversation. A group of Brown County families are making this happen after they formed the Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative. This group provides locally grown beef to several grocers in Brown County as well as direct to consumer. The cooperative members stay in contact with the consumers and raise their product based on the demands of the surrounding communities.

As I get to work with the various producers and consumers, I notice there is not a refusal to work together but a stockpile of questions and misconceptions. There will always be a few bad eggs in almost any situation, but the good will always outweigh the bad. You hear plenty about the bad and the division between one another, but even more are working together to build relationships. Just as the changes I referenced earlier didn’t happen over night, we cannot expect this change to be any different. The importance to discuss our needs is not to prove a point or win an argument, but to create a better situation for those we care about. It doesn’t matter if you are caring for the family you have around the table or the animal you tend to everyday. We are all consumers and we all care for one another.


James MorrisJames Morris is a County Extension Educator, Brown County.

Elder Care: It Takes a Village

Senior care

Seniors rely on their caregivers, often building lasting relationships.

If you have an aging loved one — grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, or family friend – living in a senior nursing community or being cared for at home by a home health organization, the people performing the most menial-sounding jobs may be the most important people in their lives. They are the van driver who takes them for a day out to the mall or to the clinic for dialysis; the laundry worker who picks up their dirty clothes every morning and brings them back clean and carefully hung or folded; the activities director who brings music, art and crafts to engage their minds, bodies and hearts; the housekeeper who cleans the floor no matter what mess s/he encounters. They also are the groundskeeper who mows the lawn and manicures the flower beds; the custodian who hangs a new memento on the wall; the hairdresser who keeps them neatly groomed.

My mother spent the final eight years of her life in a nursing facility. That became her permanent home, and almost everyone treated her as if she owned the place. She knew most of the staff by name and would share with me her interactions with them. It became clear after a few months that she only spoke in detail about the employees that I mentioned in the first paragraph. The nurses and aides, of course, were giving her the physical caring she needed to stay healthy, yet the non-clinical staff were the people she told me about. She knew about their marital status and family life, what they did on their non-working time, and their favorite hobbies. Mom didn’t get to know the clinical staff on the same personal level; they had many residents who demanded their expertise, and her interactions with clinical staff were focused on medical needs.

The next time you visit your aging loved one living in a senior community, pay attention to the staff:  not only those who are giving the meds or changing bedpans, but also those working behind the scenes to make life more comfortable for the residents.

Elder Care Certificate

Alber Enterprise Center has created a new training program for those on the front lines who would like some help understanding the challenges of the elders in their care. The Elder Care Certificate program, designed for anyone who cares for or interacts with older adults, is a wealth of information about issues facing our aging population. This program will transform the way participants work with elders and enhance their status as caring individuals. Participants will gain expertise in dealing with the aging population, will have a better understanding of the challenges seniors face, and will be better equipped with the interpersonal tools to function as contributing members of a caring team. The modules include topics in gerontology, personal effectiveness, communication, problem-solving, and leadership/customer service skills.

The 16-hour pilot program was delivered in 2017, and the 14 participants who were randomly selected to experience the program offered high praise for their experience. One stated, “The thing that touched and inspired us the most is that it changed our attitudes and the way we look at our residents.”  Another commented: “What is the #1 thing that I will use in the future? Listening:  Making each resident or coworker feel that they are very important and have my undivided attention.”

Alber Enterprise Center is in the process of licensing the curriculum through the university’s Technology Commercialization Office. To assure that the training is delivered to as many workers as possible throughout Ohio, the Center is seeking Extension educators who would like to become certified trainers for this program and offer it in their counties. For more information, contact Anne Johnson.6754@osu.edu or Myra Wilson.2025@osu.edu.


Myra WilsonMyra Wilson is the Program Director for the Alber Enterprise Center.

Ready, Set, 360°!

While it may be difficult to comprehend, entertainment consumes a large portion of Americans’ lives.

In 2016, Americans were consuming entertainment media (viewing television, the Internet, mobile apps, etc.) for 10 hours and 39 minutes per day (Koblin, 2016). Therefore, the average American was consuming 306,315.3 hours of entertainment programming in their lifetime (44.3 percent of the average life expectancy calculated at 78.8 years) (Stein, 2016).

How many hours of entertainment have you consumed today?

When you stop to think how many times you have looked at your social media, personal email, or YouTube, it’s not such a stretch to see how many Americans accumulate 10 hours and 39 minutes of entertainment consumption in a day. Internet content is expected to consist of 82 percent of video traffic by 2020, which will also significantly increase the time spent by Americans consuming entertainment yearly (Cisco Visual Networking Index, 2016).

Particularly in the agricultural industry, where less than 2 percent of the nation’s population identifies as a farmer, communication and public relations efforts will rely on messages delivered via entertainment media. Due to the large number of non-farmers in the United States, it is essential for the agricultural industry to utilize transparency in their communication strategies as well as keep up with emerging entertainment trends. Millennials are considered the driving force behind many of the current food trends. They are also the first generation to grow up with the internet, and they desire transparent communications about agriculture and their food (G. Johnson, 2016).

One way to have transparency in communications is the use of virtual reality. Virtual reality (VR) seems like it is something out of a futuristic movie, like Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018). However, the future of VR technology is already available and is gaining popularity with educational institutions through the implementation of virtual field trips.

VR is a concept that encompasses several kinds of immersive media that is typically viewed by wearing a headset. The two main components of VR media are 360° videos and augmented reality (AR). The 360° videos are able to provide viewers with an interactive view of the scene.  AR is where the viewer has a live view of what is around them, but has additional computer generated (CG) graphics or audio incorporated over the live view.

As a Millennial, a farmer, an agricultural communicator, and an Extension Educator, I love the opportunity to share educational information via videos. I believe one way to have true transparency of video messages is through the use of 360° video. This allows the viewer to have the full picture – there’s nothing cropped or hidden from view. Viewers of 360° videos are able to have a true virtual experience of the scene they are viewing.

I have had the opportunity to use two 360° video cameras to create several videos for upcoming projects. At the Highland County Fair, September 1-8, 2018, I will be demonstrating VR videos. The video shown below is a 360° video highlighting aerial application of fungicide, the Fallsville Wildlife Area waterfall, my cat (Mr. Socks), and the Hillsboro 4th of July Fireworks finale. If you are viewing the video on a computer, use the circular toggle on the upper left corner to change the perspective of the video. If you are using a mobile device, move your phone around to change the view or use your fingers to drag the screen in multiple directions. The best way to view a 360° video is with a VR headset. If you have access to a VR headset, use the split-screen function to view the video for the optimal experience.

Here are some tips for making your own VR videos:

  • Have a good, stable tripod.
  • Be close to the action of the scene, as there is currently no zoom function on 360° cameras.
  • Remember to bring your camera charger if you are planning on a long video shoot.
  • If you are filming in a windy area, utilize a secondary audio source.
  • Use SD cards that have large amounts of available space because the file sizes of high definition 360° videos are large.
  • Allow for more time to edit 360° video content. The GoPro Fusion camera requires two SD cards and needs additional time to render.

If you are interested in viewing more 360° videos, there are an increasing number of 360° videos online. The New York Times has a channel called the Daily 360, National Geographic made the first 360° video in space with the help of astronaut Paolo Nespoli, and Google offers Google Expeditions. You can also find other 360° videos on YouTube.

Individuals attending the Highland County Fair this year will have the opportunity to view a different video with a VR headset. The video shown at the fair will highlight agricultural production and the Highland County community. For more information about 360° video production or when the video will be available at the Highland County Fair, contact Brooke Beam at beam.49@osu.edu or at 937-393-1918.

References:

Cisco Visual Networking Index. (2016, June 1). White paper: Cisco VNI Forecast and Methodology, 2015-2020. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from Cisco: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual networkingindex-vni/complete-white-paper-c11-481360.html

Drake, N. (2018, April 16). Exclusive: How We Made the First 3-D Virtual Reality Video in Space. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/making-first-360-video-space-nespoli-one-strange-rock-science/

Johnson, G. (2016a, February). Food Trends: Consumers Want Healthy, Local Foods. Successful  Farming.

Koblin, J. (2016b, June 8). Netflix Studied Your Binge-Watching Habit. That Didn’t Take Long. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from The New York Times:    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/business/media/netflix-studied-your-bingewatching-habit-it-didnt-take-long.html

Lei, J. (2017, July 19). Adventures abound: Explore Google Expeditions on your own. Google Blogs. Retrieved from https://www.blog.google/products/expeditions/adventures-abound -explore-google-expeditions-your-own/

Spielberg, S. (2018). Ready Player One [Motion Picture].

Stein, R. (2016, December 8). Life Expectancy in U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades, Report  Finds. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/health     shots/2016/12/08/504667607/life-expectancy in-u-s-drops-for-first-time-in-decadesreport-finds

The New York Times. (2018). The Daily 360. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/video/the-daily-360


Brooke Beam is a County Extension Educator, Highland County.

The USDA and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants – Seeding Innovation

In 1982 the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Development program was established by Congress to provide seed capital for research and development through 11 Government Agencies. For profit companies with less than 500 employees that are majority owned by US Citizens or permanent resident aliens are invited to submit proposals for a chance at funding for their innovative idea. Eleven Government Agencies (such as USDA, NSF, and DoD) participate, and each agency handles the grant proposals, review, and selection differently.

For winning proposals, the USDA provides funding of $100,000 for eight (8) months to cover concept development. This is called a Phase I grant. If a company successfully navigates concept development, they may apply for a Phase II grant. If awarded, a Phase II grant supplies up to $600,000 for two more years of concept development. The ultimate goal is commercialization of a new technology or innovation.

Liz and Ann

Liz and Ann – Founders of Green Heron Tools

One company that at least in part owes its existence to the USDA SBIR program is Green Heron Tools. Based on the premise that garden tools work well for male body structures but not female, two dynamos, Liz Brensinger and Ann Adams, rounded up a team consisting of engineers, farmers and occupational therapists to develop a new concept: ergonomic garden tools for women. In 2008, Green Heron Tools launched.

Both women had full time day jobs and a dream to farm and sell their produce at farmers’ markets and restaurants. One of the women was a nurse and the other a public health educator by trade. They parlayed those skills into a consulting business, writing grants for not-for-profits. In their spare time they farmed a small plot of land in Pennsylvania. The women soon realized that the tools they were using on their small acreage farm were difficult to maneuver, inefficient, and not ergonomically correct. Because of their health backgrounds and aching bodies, they were painfully aware that this discomfort could lead to injury including cumulative trauma.

At one of the farmers’ markets where they sold their produce, the women struck up a conversation with a customer who just happened to be a mechanical engineer. They shared their idea for ergonomically designed garden tools with him. He was intrigued and quickly whipped up initial calculations proving ergonomically improved tools were possible. This motivated the women to conduct an on-line survey of women farmers. Through this they learned that THE single most important tool that needed a new design was a shovel. The women reached out to a state farming resource who told them about the USDA SBIR grants. The women applied, and in January 2009 they were awarded a $100,000 Phase I grant to develop their concept.

The team they recruited worked with them to bring that concept to reality. They conducted research and collected data. One of their team members turned out to be a doctoral student who decided to write his dissertation on designing ergonomic tools for women. Another, an engineer, used the research data collected to design several shovels and then created prototypes that were tested by women – students, gardeners, and farmers in the field. The researchers determined that women dig differently than men and thus need a different shovel design. The research data that was collected proved their hypothesis about ergonomics, shovel design, and the female anatomy.

It took months to fine tune the shovel design, locate a fabricator to do the manufacturing, determine sources for assembly and all the parts. Then, the fun part, what to call their new shovel. Team Liz and Ann decided to hold a Facebook contest to name their invention. This is where the term hergonomic was invented and where the “Hergonomic Shovel-Spade Hybrid” was born! Along the way there were wins and losses, but eventually the product launch occurred when Liz, Ann, and a car load of shovels made their way to the Mother Earth News Fair. More than two years after receiving the USDA Grant, HERS (the hershovel Hergonomic Shovel-spade hybrid) hit the market in 2011.

Ann and Liz have received a total of four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the US Department of Agriculture, two Phase I grants and two Phase II grants. They are dedicated to staying true to their health-focused mission of creating sustainable green yard and farm tools ergonomically designed for women. Liz and Ann are the only full time employees of Green Heron tools, but jobs and the economy of the region and state are boosted because they are dedicated to sourcing their supply chain through state and regional manufacturers and suppliers.

I called Liz Brensinger for this article. She told me that she and her partner, Ann Adams, have a passion for health and experience in grant writing. Together they identified a need, found resources to develop an innovative product to fill that need, and continue to develop other ergonomic products that further their mission. Through survey results they identified a shovel held the greatest potential because it was identified as an ergonomic need and women were willing to pay a premium for it.

Along the way the women learned lessons such as, the price that people say they are willing to pay based on survey results doesn’t necessarily translate into what they are willing to pay when the product is available in the store. They learned that distribution of ergonomically correct tools is a challenge because inherently, ergonomic correctness is based on variables such as height. At the same time, many retail establishments can’t provide the space or buy the inventory for every size of tool. Also, the yard and farm tool business is somewhat cost prohibitive to break into and historically is male dominated. Despite business challenges, the women forge forward with new, innovative “hergonomic” products that fulfill their corporate mission.

Advice from these two trailblazers is simple. Follow your passion, don’t cut corners, and don’t chase money. Stay true to what got you started in the first place.

To all of you budding innovators out there — I am mentoring and coaching candidates for USDA SBIR Phase I grants. If you would like assistance in preparing a proposal for a Phase I SBIR grant, shoot me an e-mail at white.2811@osu.edu. The RFA for the next award will be released in early July 2018, and the proposals are due in early October 2018. The grant money itself will be released in January 2019.  If you have the passion, time, and drive, I am here to help.

I have heard it said that everyone has one idea a year that if followed through, could result in a million-dollar business. What is your idea? Maybe a better question is, are you like Liz and Ann? Do you have what it takes to see it through to the end?


Kyle White is a County Extension Educator (Lorain County) & Area Leader (Area 4) for OSU Extension.

Climate Change – What’s the Big Deal?

Find out more during the FREE June 7 Webinar
(Details/Registration below)

 “Few people would be making a big deal of climate change if the changes weren’t making big differences in land, air, water, infrastructure and economies — the ingredients of our daily lives. Climate science offers a wide lens on how ecosystems and social systems affect each other. The science and stories behind each impact present more questions we must now answer to support communities into the future.”

Source:  University of California – Davis
climatechange.ucdavis.edu/impacts/

Here in Central Ohio climate change is often not the first thought on my mind. After all, we aren’t experiencing the most intense impacts – drought, hurricanes, flooding coastlines, massive fires – all destroying property and, worst yet, taking lives – are we?

While we may be spared some of the extremes, our changing climate in Ohio is already having a pronounced effect on farmers, the fishing industry and residents along Lake Erie and other waterways in the state, to name a few interest groups.  Here are a few selected impacts for Ohio from a 2016 EPA report:

  • In the last century, Ohio’s climate has warmed around 1.5 Degree Fahrenheit. This warming trend has accelerated in recent decades, with nighttime and winters showing the greater temperature.
  • Average annual precipitation in the Midwest increased by 5-10% over the last 50 years. This increase is projected to continue, particularly in the Eastern part of the region. As a result, the frequency of flooding is likely to increase in Ohio and surrounding states.
  • Heavy downpours are most likely to occur in the winter and spring, when soil is saturated or frozen, impacting agricultural runoff and water quality. Intense rainfall will also impact urban areas with combined sewer and storm water systems, potentially causing sewage overflow and water contamination.
  • Increased water temperatures in the Great Lakes will likely affect some coolwater fish species and will create favorable conditions for harmful algal blooms.
  • Forests will be threatened by drier conditions, fires, invasive insects and land use changes due to development patterns. As temperatures increase, some tree species are expected to shift their range to the north.

These are only some of the projected impacts Ohio will experience from our warming climate. Land Use Planners, zoning officials and local elected and appointed leaders are, in many locales, increasingly needing to be on the forefront of building resilient communities that will be able to adapt to projected changes in climate. A sampling of such initiatives currently underway in Ohio includes:

GreenCityBlueLake Institute at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: In existence since 1992,  GCBL has been a leader in topics related to sustainable cities and climate change.

Smart Columbus:  In 2016 Columbus competed against 77 cities throughout the U.S. to win the Smart City Challenge, providing over $40 million to achieve transportation and sustainability goals, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center of The Ohio State University: One of the top research programs on the contribution of cold climates to the global climate system, BPCRC’s mission is to “conduct multi-disciplinary research, offer enhanced educational opportunities, and provide outreach activities with the goal of promoting understanding of the ever-evolving Earth System”.

An upcoming webinar hosted by eXtension’s Community Planning and Zoning Community of Practice, a team of researchers, educators and community practitioners from throughout the U.S., will be held in early June to identify community and land use impacts of climate change.  This webinar is free and open to those who seek information on climate change and steps communities can take to mitigate impacts.  Please note that registration is required, and a link is provided in the description below:

 Webinar Opportunity:

Community and Land Use Impacts from Climate Change
Thursday, June 7 at 1 p.m. eastern time for 1 hour

Complete information is available at: learn.extension.org/events/3455

A panel of speakers from three different states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) will discuss how communities’ land use decisions can impact and respond to a changing climate. They will share examples from various communities and may touch on agriculture and food, infrastructure systems, the link with smart growth and sustainability, and environmental protection. In addition, each speaker will discuss how climate change is expected to affect their various states.

  • The first speaker is Thomas W. Blaine, an Environmental Economist with Ohio State University Extension. He has published numerous fact sheets and blog posts about climate change. He will lead off this webinar providing an overview of climate change and what it means for communities throughout the United States.
  • The second speaker is Jim Shortle, a Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics and Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Environment and Natural Resources Institute at Penn State. His talk will focus on water management and recreation and provide examples of what communities can do in these areas.
  • Our third and final speaker is Jim LaGro, a professor in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He will focus on climate change strategies used by communities that also focus on community livability and sustainability.

The webinar will wrap up with an opportunity for questions and answers.

Please register by June 4 at: extension.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7EYOA-K3Tq6T7zSL9iVpIw. “Seating” is limited.

1 AICP CM credit is available.


Myra Moss is an Associate Professor and Extension Educator, OSU Extension Community Development.

The Ripple Effect of Personal Finances on a Community

Do you have a family member, friend or neighbor who recently lost his/her job; had to reduce their number of hours at work due to health issues; pay more than 30% of their income on housing; or lost 50% or more of their income due to the death of a spouse, divorce or unemployment? If so, most of them will probably be evicted, face foreclosure, miss housing and utility payments, receive public assistance, etc. Obviously, it’s important for residents to know that these results not only affect the households of their families, but the community at large.

These problems contribute to an inordinate high number of evictions; food insecurity; infant mortality rates; inability to get prescriptions and medical attention; mental, emotional, social and physical ills; and community development. Revenue from property taxes will decrease if families fail to make their mortgage payments. Neighborhoods will suffer with blight, disinvestment, and crime when properties are left vacant and abandoned, and public assistance budgets will surge.

It’s important that we address these community-wide problems with community-wide solutions. Towards this end, leaders from communities, corporations, colleges/universities, civic organizations, and churches need to unite and help families avoid these issues by developing innovative programs and unique partnerships to strengthen the lives of families and, subsequently, communities.

OSU Extension understands the correlation between personal finances and community development. Towards this end, we work diligently to strengthen the lives of families and build strong communities by educating and empowering residents with the knowledge, resources, and skills essential in helping them take control of their finances and future! To see what OSU Extension is doing to make a difference in the lives of children, youth and families in Columbus, visit franklin.osu.edu.


Susan Colbert is the Franklin County Extension Program Director for Expansion and Engagement.

Focus…What?

I recently was asked to facilitate focus groups for a social service agency as a beginning step in their strategic planning process. Focus groups are very familiar to me, but most of the participants of these groups were not familiar with the purpose of focus groups or how they may be beneficial to them or the agency. Some of their questions may also help you when deciding how to gather information.

What is a focus group?

WhatA focus group is in essence a group interview based on a set of questions or discussion points. It is qualitative research designed to explore people’s opinions and attitudes. Focus groups ask open-ended questions and avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no answers. A typical focus group may consist of 6-8 people. A number of focus groups are usually conducted to get an ideal mix of information. Focus groups typically last 1-3 hours.

Why focus groups?

WhyFocus groups tend to take place with a small sample size in an interactive group setting. They create a way to encourage participants to share ideas and express opinions and attitudes and are an effective way to facilitate open discussions and allow participants to express themselves deeper than a less personal survey, and dive deeper into certain issues.

Who participates in focus groups?

WhoThe participants selected must be able to answer the questions and must be familiar with the topic discussed. Participants are selected based on criteria relevant to the organization/concept including existing or potential customers.

If you are interested in conducting focus groups, please contact me at bond.227@osu.edu.


Cindy BondCindy Bond is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator (Guernsey County).

 

Battling Blight by Tackling Vacancies in Lima, Ohio

Vacant parcels and abandoned properties are a big problem for many of Ohio’s cities, some that have been shrinking for decades as a result of sustained population loss. Blighted properties that litter the urban landscape can cost cities millions in lost property taxes, foreclosures and demolition costs, not to mention opportunity costs to local economies. A report by Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) in 2008 on eight shrinking cities in Ohio estimated annual costs of city services to these properties at 15 million dollars, and lost property tax revenues from demolitions and tax delinquencies at over 49 million dollars.

Abandoned property

Abandoned property

Lima, the Allen county seat, is an example of a city facing the challenge of hundreds of vacant and abandoned properties. Over the past two years, faculty and students from OSU’s Knowlton School, in collaboration with OSU Lima and the City of Lima Land Bank, have piloted a program, the Ohio Land Exchange (OH/LEX), to address the vacancy problem in Lima. They have surveyed and mapped hundreds of tax delinquent parcels, which, according to Lima’s Mayor Berger, has “provided Lima vacancy patterns and demotion needs, as well as detailed maps of locations, flood plains, and potential reuses” (link). The team also engaged over a dozen local non-profits who have been meeting regularly to explore beneficial ways to reuse the properties.

Reaching a consensus

Reaching a consensus on land reuse priorities

In the past year, Knowlton School expanded the partnership to include OSU Extension, holding a workshop in May 2017 to introduce the program to Extension Educators statewide. Extension is providing the boots on the ground needed to take the initiative from mapping and data collection to project implementation. Data has helped to inform stakeholders about property locational assets or liabilities, including soil conditions or proximity to bus stops, to determine potential forms of reuse and appropriate locations. One of these stakeholders is Activate Allen County, a non-profit organization formed in 2012, tasked with improving the health and well-being of Lima and Allen County residents. The organization conducted a food system assessment which found that 53% of Lima citizens reside in a food desert, the region has the second highest obesity rate in Ohio, and almost 11% of its residents suffer from diabetes. The proposed implementation project is the result of numerous meetings with local stakeholders to reach a consensus on land reuse priorities, including food system improvements.

Funding support has come from a 2017 Connect and Collaborate grant that supported increased and strengthened stakeholder engagement and formulation of a plan for Lima. Another grant, currently under review, would provide support for a phased food systems implementation strategy, to create a temporary “food and entrepreneurship lab” and to conduct a market analysis for a permanent food hub. The second phase, dependent on the outcome of the first phase, is the development of a permanent food hub. The food and entrepreneurship lab includes the design and build of a model urban garden and community space on vacant land near the city center. Concurrently, a market analysis will be conducted to identify the impact, needs and potential uses for a permanent food hub based on existing retail sales data, data gathered at the lab, and surveys of local residents.

As a pilot location, Lima will demonstrate the costs and benefits of the OH/LEX program and its potential value for other cities in Ohio. Do you see a need in your city?


Nancy Bowen is an Associate Professor & Extension Field Specialist, Community Economics.

Now it’s The Road (Not) Less Traveled

Dodging potholes, bumping across a road that is as grooved as a washboard, and watching the cloud of dust in your rear view mirror is the road traveled by many rural Ohio residents. Fast forward 5 days to that same road as a solid, smooth chip and seal surface. Beware of the caution signs on this thoroughfare to success, as there are months of preparation before the actual surfacing project. Hop in and ride with me as we journey through this process.

One of the main reasons road surfaces become so challenging to drive is not the surface itself, but the lack of a solid base beneath the surface. We stop to find our county engineer and township trustees converging to develop a plan. A road rehabilitation method known as full depth reclamation offers an option to improve road conditions. To be successful, this process requires significant funding to complete. With three townships and the county working cooperatively, an application is submitted to the Ohio Public Works Commission for grant and loan assistance.

Road surface prep

Full-depth reclamation – pulverizing the road base.

Chip and seal

Chip and seal surface application

Using this funding source and local matching funds the project begins with preparations that include ditching and installation of new, and replacement of damaged, culverts. This is done because proper drainage is essential to road maintenance. While this work could be completed by local road crews, the full-depth reclamation work requires a contractor who specializes in the process. First, test holes are made to determine the type of soil under the road. This informs the correct cement-to-road material ratio. A road reclaim machine pulverizes the road base and some sub-base and combines them. The road is then graded back to normal terrain. More soil tests are done and a dry cement is then distributed over and incorporated into the pulverized material including a water additive. The stabilized material is compacted with rollers providing a solid base. After all of these steps are complete, then the asphalt and limestone aggregate chip and seal surface is applied.

Providing a road map for this road improvement project was Ohio State University Extension, Washington County Community Development. Extension engaged the community via coordination of meetings, assisting with application paperwork, and supporting township officials with critically important project information. Projects of all types can experience unexpected bumps and curves. Remember to contact your local Extension office to help you travel your road to success!


Darlene LukshinDarlene Lukshin is a Community Development program specialist in Washington County.