A community vision by Yellow Springs Development Corporation
- Published: May 7, 2022
The Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, spent significant time during its first monthly meetings this year discussing the possibility of limiting its scope to three, or even a single, goal for 2022.
Those conversations took a different turn this spring, however, when the group’s recently elected president, Corrie Van Ausdal, suggested that the nonprofit widen, rather than narrow, its lens, with the goal of creating a shared community vision. During the YSDC’s March meeting, she proposed that in undertaking that effort, the group consider at least four additional areas that affect economic development: infrastructure needs in the village and township, the community’s changing demographics, the effects of climate change on the area and the future of work in general.
YSDC Vice President Alex Bieri, who serves on the board as mayor of Clifton, said he agreed that an expansion of the group’s focus would be worthwhile, noting that the pandemic has accelerated changes in who is working and the ways they work, which will affect future economic development efforts.
“We’re experiencing a changing of the guard as many people are retiring,” he said, adding that at the same time more people are working from home, and retail sales have increasingly moved online.
Amy Magnus, one of two school board representatives on the YSDC, suggested that establishing a mentorship program could address the demographic shifts and the “changing of the guard” that Bieri noted.
Van Ausdal said that the village’s cultural centers have shifted as well — Antioch College, for example, does not have the same influence it once had. In addition, she noted a “drop-off” in local volunteering, which will affect the initiation of new programs in the community.
“Getting people involved and developing interconnectedness are critical to our health and well being,” she said.
Kevin Stokes, one of two representatives of Village Council appointed to the YSDC, said that contentiousness within the community is a growing concern and likely affects whether people step forward to volunteer or serve on government commissions or boards. He suggested that YSDC members consider an effort to make volunteerism, or serving the community, more attractive.
“Create the expectation of contributing and be the change,” he said.
Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister, one of two Township appointees to the economic development group, wondered if the visioning discussion was taking the YSDC outside its established parameters.
“The corporation needs vision, but it also needs focus,” he said. “It’s not a center of culture; our schools and churches fill that role. The corporation should focus on economic development.”
Dorotheé Bouquet, the other school board representative with Magnus, said she thought it would be helpful to “look at where people congregate and where energy is now” in deciding on projects the YSDC might pursue.
“Having a discussion on what other CDCs [community development corporations] do will inform our strategy,” she said.
The group’s former president, Lisa Abel, who represents the YS Community Foundation, said that updating the group’s strategic plan would be useful, with “scenario planning” helping to “organize around a vision of possible futures.”
Van Ausdal solidified her intent during the YSDC’s most recent meeting Tuesday, April 12, conducted via Zoom.
“We are going to be thinking this year about developing a shared future vision,” she said. Toward that end, she said she “will be bringing in guests who are doing interesting things and providing vital services.”
The guests she had invited to speak April 12 were Mike Montgomery, executive director of Friends Care Community, and Thor Sage, executive director of MVECA (Miami Valley Educational Computer Association).
Montgomery spoke to the housing and care needs of the “aging Baby Boomer population,” while Sage’s presentation addressed tech-centered infrastructure resources provided by his company, which recently purchased the former Antioch Publishing building at 888 Dayton St..
Both said that finding enough staff is a challenge for their separate businesses.
“If we don’t have staff, we won’t fill the beds,” Montgomery said of the care facility.
“We are continuously looking for people,” MVECA’s Sage echoed, adding that he plans to attend the May 7 job fair planned by the Chamber of Commerce. He noted that he is the only Yellow
Springs resident among his company’s current staff of 40 employees.
A more detailed look at the current status of each business will be covered in a future issue of the News.
In other YSDC business April 12:
• Abel reported that the group’s subcommittee focused on seeking grants for local businesses is exploring Greene County’s grant-finder software, and has also met with Piper Fernwey, of the Clifton Crafthouse, about the possibility of supporting that effort.
“It’s a big project with lots of arms,” Abel said of the planned co-op.
• Bouquet reported that she has been exploring other community development corporations and what they can do. She noted that Cleveland has between 30 and 40 separate CDCs, with projects that range from managing senior housing to supporting an LGBTQ theater to providing senior assistance.
She suggested that the YSDC conduct a comprehensive survey of commercial and mixed-use buildings in the village and township, particularly noting facilities that are underused.
Eric Henry, attending the meeting in his role as director of Greene County’s development department, was enthusiastic about the suggestion.
“That’s a fantastic idea,” he said, noting that it is difficult for him to point businesses toward a community when he doesn’t know space availability.
Bouquet cautioned that she could not lead the project, as she currently is co-chairing the school district’s facilities committee work.
“It’s a great idea, but nobody has the bandwidth to take it on,” Van Ausdal said.
Stokes asked whether YSDC might partner with another agency, such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown Business Association. Bieri agreed that the work does not need to be done by a YSDC board member.
•YS Community Foundation Executive Director Jeannamarie Cox, who serves on the YSDC in an ex-officio capacity, reported on the foundation’s annual meeting earlier in April. She said that a new area of focus is on individual endowment needs, particularly regarding gaps in social services that provide food and housing.
She said that a donor has contributed a $500,000 match grant, with the foundation and the community expected to contribute $500,000 each for $1.5 million total to begin a universal basic income program.
The effort would provide additional income over a specified period of time, Cox said. It will also help address the needs of the village’s homeless population, which has no local social service support.
• YSDC members, who have been meeting via Zoom all year, agreed to meet in person in May with the stipulations that there is “a good option” for those who can’t physically attend, that a recording method is arranged and that someone monitors the COVID numbers.
“I am eager to return in person,” Hollister said. “I think we underrated the impact [of] being distant. I think there is great value in being in-person — the casual stuff that happens when you come into the room. I’m sad to say that it’s affected the civic discourse in the community.”
The day and time for the May meeting was later confirmed for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the Miami Township Fire-Rescue station’s meeting room.