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Community buy-in key to LISC, ProMedica initiative, officials say

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    Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica, left, and Maurice Jones, president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., talk about LISC's new partnership with ProMedica Ebeid Institute.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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    Toledo Councilman Larry Sykes asked a question of Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica, and Maurice Jones, president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., during an event at the ProMedica Ebeid Institute on Tuesday.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Officials with ProMedica and the national Local Initiatives Support Corp. stressed the importance of getting residents directly involved in comprehensive efforts to improve their neighborhoods.

The two organizations announced Tuesday a $45 million joint venture to establish a loan pool and grant program for neighborhood-based economic development in ProMedica’s 28-county footprint in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. LISC will also help ProMedica implement the 10-year, $50 million Ebeid Neighborhood Promise announced last fall to benefit Toledo’s UpTown neighborhood.

“We need to make sure that as we do this work, that the residents in the communities we are attempting to be helpful to are at the table,” Maurice Jones, president and chief executive of LISC, said.

WATCH: Maurice Jones, president and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corp., explains a loan pool

“At the end of the day, this has to be a journey where every voice matters, and where every voice is at the table from inception to the end of the journey. That’s how we will produce the best outcomes for Toledo, no question about it,” he added later.

Dozens of area elected officials and representatives of schools and other organizations attended the announcement event Tuesday morning at the ProMedica Ebeid Institute for Population and Health in UpTown.

The goal of the partnership is to improve social determinants of health — a term for demographic factors such as income, education, housing, and food insecurity that affect a person’s well-being. Randy Oostra, president and chief executive of ProMedica, said 80 percent of a person’s health is related to those factors outside the doctor’s office.

“Those things are critically important,” he said. “When you begin to think about how you change communities, how you change people’s lives, it’s all those type of things, that many of us had opportunities in life and many of us don’t.”

He said that in surveys of its clients, ProMedica has found about 80 percent of people “are willing to change their lives.”

“They just don’t know how. They don’t have resources,” Mr. Oostra said. “We just need to provide tools for people.”

Mr. Jones said the idea is to stimulate under-served neighborhoods by investing in local development efforts and small-business ventures with initial capital and technical support.

“Access to capital for development is like oxygen to breathe,” he said. “You have to have access to capital for organizations and individuals at different stages of their journey.”

ProMedica will contribute $10 million to the loan pool and another $10 million to the grant program, while LISC will add $15 million for loans and $10 million for grants.

K. LaVerne Redden, chairman of the London Square Neighborhood Club and of the Detroit Avenue Corridor Coalition, said she was pleased to hear that officials want residents to be directly involved from the start.

“One of the things that our community has been struggling with is finding a place at that table you talked about,” she told Mr. Oostra and Mr. Jones. “You’re talking about us, but I’d like for you to talk with us and I’d like to be a part of the decision-making process. I don’t want to be the recipient of what has already been decided.”

Pete Gerken, Lucas County Commission president, agreed that the best way to proceed is to “take it to the streets.”

“It’s going to take a community to rebuild a community,” he said after the event. “It can’t just be a room full of people that are white and privileged and not living in poverty. They made a commitment today to engage the community and find out what people want.”

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz noted the initiative ties in with one of his top goals for the city — to build and expand upon economic progress seen in downtown Toledo.

“There is a sense that downtown is enjoying an economic renaissance, but the city is never going to reach its potential if that economic energy doesn’t start making its way out into the neighborhoods,” he said. “One of the ways to do that is with seed capital and investment and loan pools. Someone needed to step up to help move that process along, and LISC and ProMedica have done it.”

Contact Alexandra Mester at: amester@theblade.com419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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