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Apr
12
2024
Economy

Yellow Springs Development Corporation gains traction

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Since its establishment in 2020, the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, has had a clear mission: “Support, incentivize and attract economic development in Yellow Springs and Miami Township.”

However, how best to fulfill the mission has led to several discussions about strategic direction among YSDC members over the last several months, according to Encore Miller Fellow Lisa Abel, whose term as a fellow concludes at the end of June. Abel, who previously served as YSDC president and a voting member of the quasi-governmental community improvement corporation, said in a recent interview with the News that YSDC is emerging with a strategic plan and focus that includes attracting regional businesses to Yellow Springs.

The organization has also placed priority on acquiring staff to fulfill organizational goals as much as funding will allow.

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“We can’t say ‘yes’ to everything, so what do we want to focus on? Where are the opportunities? So, toward the end of 2022, the board recognized that we’re a volunteer board — most folks that are on the board are appointed, through the Township or [Village] Council or school board, so they’re already super busy,” Abel said. “What we recognize is we don’t have a lot of people on this board who can actually do the things we need to do.”

According to Abel, the Miller fellowship came out of the need for a quick-moving process involving tasks that needed an experienced eye.

“We needed to hire somebody, and some folks on the board talked to the [Yellow Springs Community] Foundation. The foundation said, ‘we have some funds left from our Encore Miller program. We could provide funding for the Encore Miller person from February through the end of June,’” she said.

One of the immediate tasks was to create a profile of Yellow Springs that YSDC could share with various regional development groups. Through this process, YSDC is hoping to attract new business opportunities for the village. The information provided on the profile lists eight reasons why Yellow Springs is a supportive place for businesses:

• A local and accessible government.
• Local and renewable-energy-focused utilities.
• Quick-responding emergency services.
• An easy commute.
• Strong community values.
• A unique business environment.
• Community interest in health and wellness.
• A “full-service downtown,” which features a grocery store, banks and pharmacy.

The profile also lists some of the types of businesses and educational entities that the organization is hoping to attract, including community college extensions, green energy and green building organizations, light manufacturing, minority- and women-owned businesses and start-ups, visual and performing arts production, law, accounting, medical and engineering firms, research and development, scalable small enterprises, service and supply chains for computer manufacturing, value added agriculture and workforce development.

Workforce development opportunities centering on the professional trades is something that Abel emphasized in particular.

“We need trades everywhere. You know, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, even construction, roofing, things like that. I mean, it’s just everywhere. It’s across the country where young people are going to college and going into computer science and learning how to create games when we need people going into the trades,” Abel said.

Another short-term goal accomplished by YSDC was gathering non-retail listings of properties available in the village and township. These listings are located on the Chamber of Commerce’s website.

“Sometimes they get a call from someone who just needs a 1,000-square-foot-office space. Alison Moody [commercial property realtor and owner of Millworks] has her listings there,” Abel said. “The only criteria really are it’s not just advertising only. If you’re listing, you’re responsible for taking them down when they’re filled.”

A longer-term goal is to re-establish a regional presence for the Village. 

“A lot of what I’ve been doing is meetings, meetings, meetings,” Abel said.

Affordable housing is another area of need where YSDC has concern, but the organization will need more time to establish their role in improving housing in the community, Abel said.

“That’s been something that recently we’ve been asked by Council to dig into. I think we are still grappling with that,” Abel said.

However, according to Abel, the organization’s CIC status is a boon for a specific reason. 

“[We] would have the ability to access funding, and create bonds, things to generate money for financing projects. We haven’t gone down that road yet. And we can also apply for grants because we’re a 501(c)3. Those, I think, are the tools that would help move things forward in those types of projects,” she said.

YSDC members include YS Chamber of Commerce representative and YSDC President Dino Pallotta, Miami Township representative and YSDC Vice President Corrie Van Ausdal, Village Council representative and Secretary Gary Zaremsky, community member at large and Treasurer Ryan Carpe, Township representative Don Hollister, Antioch College representative Kevin McGruder, Village Council representative Kevin Stokes, school district representative Amy Magnus and an open seat that needs to be filled by a YS Community Foundation representative. Ex-officio, or nonvoting members include YS Community Foundation Executive Director Jeanna Marie Cox,  Antioch College President Jane Fernandes, YS Schools Superintendent Terri Holden, and Village Manager Josue Salmeron.

The majority of YSDC members are appointed by their respective governmental or organizational entities,  but the members are responsible for filling the community-at-large seats and are currently looking for another member. According to Abel, YSDC is looking for anyone interested in economic development.

“We have a couple people on the board already who have their own businesses. If you worked in an area of business, that might be applicable. Someone who has more of those deep roots [in the community],” she said.

According to Abel, the board makeup includes 25% BIPOC people. “Pretty good, but more would be nice,” she said. 

“The other piece is someone who may have marketing or communications [qualifications], because that’s not as represented right now,” Abel said.

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