In 2010 the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) hosted a group of business leaders that felt it was important for businesses to step up and help improve the region’s prosperity. In 2011, those leaders were putting the finishing touches on creating a business-led nonprofit, and named it the Ohio Appalachian Business Council. Recently elected Ohio Governor John Kasich learned about their effort and asked the business leaders and the FAO to stand up an organization to be the regional partner for his new, privatized economic development partnership JobsOhio.
The Board agreed and chartered two organizations. The Ohio Appalachian Business Council (OABC) – subsequently renamed as Appalachian Partnership Inc. - was chartered to take on the board’s original vision for a business-led organization to promote regional prosperity. Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, LLC (APEG), was formed as a subsidiary of OABC to serve as the regional JobsOhio partner organization. Both organizations operated under a common board of directors.
API conducted a national search and recruited John Molinaro as the first President and CEO for both API and APEG. Molinaro formerly worked with The Aspen Institute where he co-directed its Community Strategies Group – a rural-focused national program that worked with rural and small metropolitan regions to help them implement proven and innovative approaches to build economic prosperity.
To reduce public confusion while launching two organizations simultaneously, from 2011 to 2017 all work of API and APEG was marketed under a common APEG brand. Working under this common brand, APEG focused on the traditional economic development tasks of retaining, expanding and attracting businesses and helped companies create more than 6,000 jobs. Meanwhile API’s programs attracted over $12 million in resources for programs and services to help local businesses improve their operations and meet their workforce needs.
In 2017 API launched a second subsidiary, Appalachian Growth Capital, LLC (AGC). AGC was formed to address gaps in the availability of affordable business credit in the region by developing a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) for Appalachian Ohio. A CDFI is a US Treasury certified organization that addresses gaps in availability of credit in underserved, low-income regions. While there were 1600 certified CDFIs nationwide, Appalachian Ohio was the only part of the Appalachian region that did not have a CDFI dedicated to meeting the region’s business credit needs.
In 2018, with the continued growth of API, APEG and the new AGC subsidiary, API’s its board of directors determined that it was time to reorganize, create a separate full-time CEO position for APEG and separate the brands. Molinaro continued as President and CEO of API and its new AGC subsidiary. Mike Jacoby, Vice President of APEG, was promoted to President and CEO.
As the organizations were reorganizing, the board of directors determined that the region needed to a “Prosperity Plan” to make the most progress in meeting its mission, and that the planning process must be highly participatory to be effective. API and APEG jointly issued an RFP in 2018, a consulting team was selected, and the planning process was implemented in December, 2018.
The prosperity planning process was conducted in early 2019, and regional participation was outstanding. More than 450 different participants and 197 businesses participated in one or more its 36 public-facing meetings and focus groups. Thirty-one people from twenty organizations volunteered to serve as co-leads for the 13 initiatives identified by the planning process. More than 250 people volunteered to serve on the implementation teams for the initiatives.
Today, the regional Prosperity Plan drives the work and ongoing development of API, APEG and AGC. Hundreds of volunteers from businesses and community-based organizations are working to implement its initiatives. API’s members and board of directors oversee the overall implementation while the boards of managers of APEG and AGC oversee their roles in implementing the strategies relating to their individual missions.