Moving Toledo’s most challenged neighborhoods forward is going to take investment — real investment from the private sector.
But attracting that investment has never been easy, which is why the loan pool and grant program for neighborhood-based economic development created by ProMedica and the national Local Initiatives Support Corp. is so meaningful.
In March, LISC and ProMedica announced a $45 million loan and grant program to incentivize development in under-served neighborhoods. The goal is to improve health and well-being in these parts of Toledo.
The project fits with ProMedica’s guiding principle of improving social determinants of health — income, education, housing, and food insecurity, for instance — as a strategy for improving the community overall.
Businesses — particularly those owned by women and minorities — can use the grants and loans to help with their projects in Toledo’s low-income neighborhoods.
The project holds the promise of spurring development of businesses that will improve neighborhoods and the lives of people living there. Imagine new grocery stores or restaurants, day-care centers or bank branches in neighborhoods that have long gone without these essential institutions.
Now imagine that development spurring more development — new housing, commercial centers, and other components of truly livable and desirable neighborhoods.
In a recent presentation, Kevin Boes, senior vice president of Local Initiatives Support Corp., said a new federal opportunity-zone program will also offer some tax exemptions for businesses investing in low-income neighborhoods. Toledo is poised to make the most of these as much of the city is expected to qualify, he said.
The ProMedica and LISC partnership has the potential to spark revitalization well beyond the Toledo’s downtown and already prosperous neighborhoods. Perhaps its most promising endeavor could be to help launch universal pre-kindergarten for Toledo’s 3- and 4-year-olds. Children with access to such pre-K programs have better graduation rates and test scores and they are less likely to repeat grades or have other difficulties.
Studies show that for every $1 Toledo invests in high quality universal preschool, the city can expect $7 in benefits to the economy and the larger community. That would create real, lasting momentum for Toledo’s future.
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