AKRON, Ohio — Regional economic development efforts in Northeast Ohio will get a boost in the form of $3.1 million in new grant commitments from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. An additional $1.1 million in new Knight grants will support youth programs, particularly focused on disadvantaged preteen and teen-age students at Simon Perkins Middle School.
The $4.2 million investment in nine Akron nonprofit organizations was approved this month at a meeting of the foundation’s board of trustees, according to Alberto Ibargüen , Knight Foundation president and CEO.
The new grants build on the foundation’s prior investment of more than $2.5 million in economic development programs in the region.
In a new grant award, JumpStart Inc., a regional venture development organization based in Cleveland, will receive $1.5 million over three years to promote economic development and employment growth in Akron and Summit County.
“JumpStart assists and invests in early-stage entrepreneurial companies that have the potential to attract private investment and become significant employers,” said Vivian Celeste Neal, Knight Foundation’s community liaison program officer based in Akron.
“Our local Community Advisory Committee was enthusiastic about the kind of opportunity this can provide, in terms of launching new businesses and helping good new jobs become available for area residents,” Neal said.
A four-year grant of $800,000 will go to the Akron Community Service Center & Urban League to increase the participation of women and minorities in the construction industry. The Akron Urban League will receive an additional $250,000 to help pay for construction of a new community learning center.
BioEnterprise Corporation, based in Cleveland, will get $600,000 over two years to promote the growth of the health care industry working with its Akron-area partner, Summa Health Systems, to develop new businesses, attract investment dollars and create well-compensated jobs in the bioscience field.
Last year Knight announced a $1.5 million grant to help the Northeast Ohio Regional Economic Development Foundation launch its Team NEO initiative, geared to increasing job opportunities and private investment. A related investment is the foundation’s $1 million support for the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaborative effort of the region’s philanthropic sector. Knight is one of the 71 entities from throughout Northeast Ohio forming the fund. Fund participants range from private, community, conversion, and corporate foundations to corporate giving programs and individual donors
“Economic opportunity is one of Knight Foundation’s two main priorities in the Akron area. “Research shows that unemployment is a continuing problem for our community,” said Neal. “Particularly among young people, job opportunities can be slim.”
As a second key priority, the Knight advisory committee has recommended enriching the lives and learning of adolescent youth, with a particular focus on students at Simon Perkins Middle School.
During the past 18 months, the Knight-funded Perkins Activities Central has provided a range of after-school, weekend and summer activities for Perkins’ sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. Knight grants so far have supported 17 Akron nonprofit and government agencies working with 275 of Perkins’ nearly 800 students.
The Perkins program is producing positive results, according to a first-year evaluation conducted by the Bureau of Research Training and Services at Kent State University. Published last month, the study indicated that students who participated frequently in the after-school programs showed improvements in school attendance, grades, behavior and self-esteem.
The newest Knight Foundation grants supporting the Simon Perkins effort include:
- Project GRAD Akron, $233,900 over three years to launch the Bridge to GRADuation program, helping Simon Perkins students make a successful transition to high school.
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Summit County, $207,900 over three years for a Saturday youth program.
- Caring Communities of Summit County, $202,000 over three years for Grandparents on the Rise, a program benefiting Simon Perkins students who are being raised by their grandparents.
- Akron Summit Community Action, $180,000 over two years for a financial literacy program providing low-income families with Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits assistance and a variety of counseling on saving, postsecondary education, home ownership and how to start a business.
- Alchemy Inc., Akron, $156,000 over two years to expand its Simon Perkins after-school program.
- Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, $150,000 over three years for an after-school and summer education program for middle school students.
Chaired by Rev. Ronald J. Fowler, senior pastor of the Arlington Church of God, the 10-member Akron Community Advisory Committee works closely with Neal to establish local funding priorities and identify programs and organizations for Knight support.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of Akron and 25 other U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.