Firelands Forward is a new and emerging multi-county workforce development initiative in the Firelands region of Ohio covering Erie, Huron, and Ottawa Counties. Recognizing the critical importance of the workforce to regional economic development, a public/private partnership including county and local governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses came together in 2019 to identify the issues and move towards action.
New Growth, with partner Innovation Economy Partners, was hired to develop a Firelands Forward strategic plan. The plan came together in three phases: (1) Define the challenges and opportunities, (2) Assess the region’s readiness to respond, and (3) Design solutions. The 12 month process involved engagement of 50+ organizations and 500+ individuals, extensive data analysis and asset mapping, and facilitated discussions with an advisory board of public and private leaders.
The process resulted in a data-rich strategic plan, new organizational by-laws and launch documents, and a fundraising strategy. Firelands Forward successfully raised over $400,000 in operating capital and officially launched in Summer 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. New Growth continues to advise the Firelands Forward team on project-related topics and grant writing.