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May
25
2022
From The Print Last Week

Yellow Springs Development Corporation ends the year by looking ahead

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Could a community bread oven be in the village’s future?

At its last monthly meeting of the year, conducted online Tuesday, Dec. 7, the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, spent time discussing possible projects and areas of focus for 2022.

The construction of a large brick oven that operates similarly to the “Penguin House” pottery collective behind John Bryan Community Center was one idea floated by Corrie Van Ausdal, one of Miami Township’s two appointees on the YSDC board.

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Another suggestion is to host a large symposium on educational innovations, an area in which Yellow Springs excels, Van Ausdal said.

YSDC President Lisa Abel, who represents the YS Community Foundation on the economic development board, said Van Ausdal’s ideas will be added to a developing list of proposals, which the group will prioritize in the coming months.

Already on the list, according to Abel, were:

• Development of Railroad Street and the area familiarly known as the CBE, or Center for Business and Education, on land at the northwest edge of town where Antioch University Midwest and Cresco are located;

• Finding additional funding for the economic development group’s work;

• Connecting with regional economic development groups.

In addition, Abel noted, the group had at its November meeting talked about seeking and supporting more business-incubator spaces in town.

In terms of connecting with existing businesses, Kevin Stokes, one of two Village Council liaisons to YSDC, asked about the status of the Downtown Business Association, or DBA and whether fostering a connection to the group might be part of the YSDC’s plans.

“I don’t know if we would benefit more from a relationship — or they would,” he said of the alliance of 70-some downtown business owners.

Sarah Courtright, who represents the Chamber of Commerce, said she couldn’t speak for the DBA, which is separate from the Chamber, but her understanding is that “they are in various stages of fleshing out their ideas and their place in the business community.”

Abel said that based on conversations she’s had with its members, “there is still some organizing going on,” as they decide “how they want to be represented.”

Switching focus to Antioch College, Lisa Kreeger, the YSDC’s other Village Council liaison, suggested the group consider ways the community might be able to take advantage of “underused” buildings on the college’s campus to create development opportunities.

The college’s representatives — Hannah Montgomery as a voting member and Maureen Lynch as an ex-officio participant — asked that the group wait on any such discussion until the new president, Jane Fernandes, can participate. They said they anticipate Fernandes will be replacing Lynch, who came on YSDC to fill the vacancy left by former Antioch President Tom Manley’s early retirement. Lynch also noted that Antioch’s board of trustees will be updating the school’s strategic plan “from now to May.”

Abel, who will be surveying YSDC members for further input, said community members also are welcome to share their ideas.

Later in the meeting, during a newly added community comment time, Dorothée Bouquet suggested hosting European style outdoor holiday markets that feature locally made products; and Patti Dallas proposed supporting marketing efforts for “all those amazing products that are developed in Yellow Springs.”

In other YSDC business, Dec. 7:

Treasurer’s report

Montgomery, the group’s treasurer, presented a proposed budget for 2022 showing anticipated expenses of $10,650 and revenues of $4.500.

Projected expenses include $2,500 in legal fees, $2,000 in fiscal sponsor [YS Community Foundation] expenses, nearly $2,000 in accounting and auditing fees, $1,500 in website costs and $1,000 toward events and programming.

With the anticipated revenue coming solely from membership dues, Montgomery suggested the group consider some fundraising to address the budget’s projected $6,150 shortfall.

Village Manager Josué Salmerón, who serves on the YSDC as a nonvoting ex-officio member, said the group might join the Village in some grant writing efforts, particularly in light of funds that will be available through the American Infrastructure Bill and President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative.

“We’ve got $30,000 in the [Village] budget for grant writing purposes that we haven’t used,” Salmerón said, noting that he and other staff members have “been writing our own.”

Noting the extensive level of commitments already carried by YSDC members, Lisa Kreeger, one of two Village Council liaisons, suggested submitting a news item or placing an advertisement in the YS News seeking the community’s help, particularly in grant writing.

Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister, one of two Township appointees on the board, suggested that YSDC’s participating entities could cover the deficit, at least this one time, as the group formed in early 2020 “is still getting launched.”

“If that deficit was divided among the Village, the Township and the school board and any other possible payers, for one year, it wouldn’t be that big a deal,” Hollister said, adding that he also wasn’t dismissing grant writing or other fundraising efforts.

Van Ausdal said she would rather see the group give away money than ask for it.

“Holding out our hats to the community … is not a good look,” she said.

She noted that the group still had funds from its commission payment in facilitating the sale of the former firehouse as well as in the forgivable loan fund, which was initiated to help local businesses negatively affected by the pandemic.

According to Montgomery’s financial data, the group has $425,012.17 in its accounts from the firehouse sale and $9,810.36 available in the forgivable loan fund.

During the community comments portion of the meeting, Bouquet said that if the YSDC goes to the community for additional funding, she would like to see any request accompanied by an accounting of what the group has accomplished and what it proposes to do.

Organizational goals

On behalf of the group’s nominating committee, Van Ausdal suggested that the group consider adding a second member representing the community at large. Realtor Shelly Blackman currently fills the one community seat alongside 10 representatives of local governmental bodies and institutions.

She also noted that member groups may name appointees who don’t necessarily serve on the body they represent, just as she was named by Miami Township Trustees.

Toward filling future YSDC seats, Van Ausdal said she would like to see “more diversity in all facets,” including age and perspectives.

“I would like to see more racial diversity,” she continued. “Thirty percent nonwhite as a minimum is very important.”

The group will consider membership and elect a new slate of officers at its February meeting, during which it also plans to conduct its first annual meeting. Abel said the group is waiting until February to address organizational matters in order to follow the January organizational meetings of its elected member bodies.

While the YSDC typically meets at 4:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month, the January meeting has been pushed back a week to Tuesday, Jan. 11, so as not to follow so closely on the heels of the winter holidays.

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