Vibrant Community Program
Supporting economic development in small and medium sized communities
The State of Ohio has long been home to many of the most economically dynamic and livable communities and urban centers this country offers. JobsOhio recognizes that some smaller and mid-sized cities that make Ohio culturally rich have struggled to compete as companies and talent migrate to major metro areas. These smaller communities are part of the social fabric of Ohio and a vital part of the State’s economy. They need resources that will better position them to attract more private investment and create new opportunities for their residents.
The Vibrant Community Program recognizes that distressed communities may not have adequate resources to develop and implement economic development projects that can attract private investment and create new jobs. The program was established to assist distressed small and medium sized communities with the implementation of catalytic development projects that fulfill a market need and represent a significant reinvestment in areas that have struggled to attract new investment.
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More About the Vibrant Community Program
JobsOhio has identified 96 cities with populations between 5,000 and 75,000 and poverty rates that are at or above the state’s average poverty rate that are eligible for support in this program. Eligible applicants include businesses, non-profits, developers, port authorities, or local governments.
The Vibrant Community Program offers competitive grants of up to $2 million for development projects that help transform areas within a distressed community. Funding will not exceed 50% of eligible costs. Projects must have at least one identified end user. Mixed use projects are eligible; however, the strongest applicants will have a higher percentage of space used for job creation and retention. Eligible projects generally fall into two categories:
- Real Estate Development Projects – Includes redevelopment of significant community assets, downtown redevelopment, or renovation of outdated retail spaces for a new, non-retail use. Real estate projects must have an end user committed to occupy at least 30% of the space.
- Operated Shared Spaces – Includes business incubators, accelerators, innovation centers, and co-working spaces. Facilities should target appropriate users, preferably within defined JobsOhio target industries but may also include early-stage businesses. Shared spaces must be managed by an experienced entity and offer relevant programming.
Guiding Principles and Project Evaluation
Projects will be evaluated on several criteria to assess their financial feasibility and community impact. To be considered for support, applicants are asked to share project details with JobsOhio for initial vetting prior to completing a full application.
- Catalyze reinvestment in distressed communities
- Improve the attractiveness of the surrounding area to investors
- Contribute to quality of place
- Partner with anchor employers, institutions, or other end users
- Align with broader JobsOhio goals
- Leverage diverse funding sources
Key Evaluation Criteria
- Probability and extent of economic and community impact
- Support of public and private community leaders
- Alignment with previous community plans
- Strength of public-private partnerships
- Improvement to surrounding real estate values
- The project’s financial strength
- Experience of leading entity
- Job creation and/or retention and investment numbers
- Strength of anchor tenant
Project Selection and Funding Determination
Projects will be awarded in an annual competitive funding round in which they will be compared to other project opportunities. Interested applicants are encouraged to share their projects for initial vetting with a JobsOhio team member.
For additional information and to seek support for a catalytic project in your community, please contact your JobsOhio regional network partner.
Western: Dayton Development Coalition
Central: One Columbus
Southeast: Ohio Southeast Economic Development (OhioSE)
Southwest: REDI Cincinnati
Connect with the JobsOhio Regional Network Partner in your area to learn how the Vibrant Community Program can assist you.
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