Landmark Legislation Extends Land Bank Authority, Marks Fifth Anniversary

July 7th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center applauds the Ohio General Assembly for passage of game-changing legislation that extends land banking authority to the remaining 44 Ohio counties that previously could not establish land banks!  Five years ago, on July 7, 2010, Ohio’s 43 most populous counties received statutory authority to organize county land banks, with Cuyahoga leading the way the year before.  Ohio enjoys one of the most effective and widely-used pieces of land bank legislation in the country.  Happy anniversary to Ohio’s county land banks!

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Land from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank has been redeveloped for urban farming, among many other uses, in Cleveland.

In 2009, Cuyahoga County piloted the land bank structure and its success compelled legislators to extend land banking authority to counties with 60,000 or more residents in 2010.  Now, five years later, the General Assembly has amended the original legislation to allow all counties to create land banks and Governor Kasich signed the changes into law on June 30, 2015.  This amendment paves a path for more exurban and rural counties to access this tremendous tool for community and economic redevelopment.

Since 2010, Ohio’s county land banks have helped revitalize hundreds of buildings–including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories–and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures throughout the state.  While not a panacea, land banks have managed the redevelopment of hundreds of acres, guided critical community reinvestment, and fostered economic regrowth in some of Ohio’s most distressed areas.  With this new legislation, existing and additional Ohio counties have the capacity to continue to accelerate community revitalization and statewide economic prosperity.

Greater Ohio Policy Center thanks state legislators for their leadership and commitment to helping Ohio’s communities manage abandoned and blighted properties, especially Rep. Scott Ryan (Newark),  Rep. Ryan Smith (Bidwell) chair of the House Finance Committee,  Sen. Tom Patton (Strongsville), and Sen. Dave Burke (Marysville) for their assistance.

 

Why Ohio’s business leaders want walkable downtowns

June 18th, 2015

Hundreds of American companies see unique competitive advantages to being located in a walkable downtown neighborhood. These locations are helping companies attract and retain talented workers, build their brand and corporate identity, support creative collaboration, be closer to partners, consolidate operations, and support triple-bottom line business outcomes.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report out today from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The report surveys nearly 500 companies that have moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns over the past five years, as well as interviews with 45 senior-level staff at those companies. The report sheds light on why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when making their decision.

“These companies chose a walkable downtown location to help them better compete for talent and resources,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “That tells us two things. First, that creating these kinds of places is a crucial economic development strategy for cities. And second, that companies which haven’t considered a walkable location may be at risk of falling behind.”

In addition to explaining the reasons why they moved downtown, company leaders also outlined what they looked for when choosing a new location. Many interviewees said they wanted their offices to be close to restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, and accessible by a variety of transportation options. Great office space was another important factor. A warm welcome on the part of the city, and a clean and safe environment were also influential factors when deciding where to move.

The report’s survey includes 53 companies from Ohio, including General Electric, BrownFlynn, Dakota Software, Nationwide and Deloitte. These are just some of the many companies that have moved to walkable downtowns in the state in recent years.

The full report, along with a full list of companies included in this survey and an interactive map showing where they moved, is available on Smart Growth America’s website at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/core-values.

Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring better development to more communities nationwide. From providing more sidewalks to ensuring more homes are built near public transportation or that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods. Learn more at www.smartgrowthamerica.org.

Join the kickoff event: A look at companies moving to downtowns

June 16th, 2015

Over the past five years, hundreds of companies across the United States have moved to and invested in walkable downtowns. Why did companies choose these places? And what features did they look for when picking a new location? On June 18, national non-profit Smart Growth America will release new research that seeks to answer both these questions.

“Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown” surveys nearly 500 companies that have moved to or invested in walkable downtowns over the past five years, and includes interviews with more than 40 senior-level staff at those companies. There are 53 companies in Ohio’s urban cores included in the analysis, including General Electric, BrownFlynn, Dakota Software, Nationwide and Deloitte. Ohio metropolitan areas mentioned in the report include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo.

As part of the launch of this new research, Smart Growth America will hold a kickoff panel discussion in Washington, DC. The event will be livestreamed on the web, and you can watch it as it happens on Thursday, June 18, 2015 starting at 9:00 AM EDT. Register to join:

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Joining the panel will be Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America; Paula Munger, Director of Business Line Research and Brian Dawson, Senior Managing Director and Market Leader for the Washington, DC region for Cushman & Wakefield; Michael Deemer, Executive Vice President, Business Development at the Downtown Cleveland Alliance; Mark Fisher, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Development for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; Brad Lacy, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Conway, AR Chamber of Commerce; Jim Reilly, Vice President, Corporate Communications at Panasonic; and Amy Ronneberg, Chief Financial Officer at Be the Match.

The conversation in the report as well as on the panel will provide an overview of why these companies chose to move downtown, and what they looked for when considering a new location. The event will also provide ideas for cities about how they can create the kinds of places these companies seek.

Have questions for the panelists ahead of time? Tweet them to @SmartGrowthUSA or use the hashtag #CoreValues.

We hope you’ll join us for the live event on June 18.

Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:

 

Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future

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As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

 

2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.

 

Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.

 

Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!

 

 

GOPC Announces Finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards

June 2nd, 2015

GOPC is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2015 Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards.

Don’t forget to join us for the Awards Ceremony, where winners will be announced, on Wednesday, June 10th from 8am-9am, which will presented as part of GOPC’s Summit: Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions. Click here to register now!

The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio. We received nominations from around the state for many worthy contenders; working with an independent advisory committee, three finalists were advanced for each of the four awards.

Public Sector Leader Award

This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Public Sector Leader Finalists:

  • Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery and Preble Counties. He is Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Workforce. He previously served as a member of Tipp City Council, where he was Council President. In addition to his legislative duties, Beagle operates his own small business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Miami University and earned an MBA from Cleveland State University.
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transit Needs Study examined existing transit services and quantified transit changes that might be needed. Looking at travel trends and demographics, ODOT found a rising need for both urban and rural transit and developed short- and long-term strategies to bring the most efficient and cost-effective improvements to transit riders and taxpayers. In addition to the study report itself, ODOT published focused study reports and initiative papers to inform citizens and decision-makers about Ohio’s transit needs and proposed solutions.
  • Mayor Georgine Welo was first elected as mayor of South Euclid in 2003. She has spearheaded innovative community revitalization projects to transform neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosure and vacancy. Under Mayor Welo’s leadership, South Euclid’s Green Neighborhoods Initiative used competitive grant funds and involved design students to remodeling postwar bungalows using green building techniques and universal design features. Vacant lots were transformed with the building of two “idea homes” and the creation of eight community gardens and three pocket parks, all designed to show the potential of South Euclid’s affordable bungalow housing stock and walkable community and to build neighborhood camaraderie. Since the launch of the initiative, South Euclid has attracted over $33 million in private residential investment and has been named a Top 10 Northeast Ohio Community by Keller Williams Realty.

Private Sector Champion Award Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Releases Study on Ohio’s County Land Banks

May 15th, 2015

GOPC releases its latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies.”

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As of April 2015, Ohio had twenty-two county land banks in operation, which have revitalized hundreds of buildings, including residential homes, skyscrapers, historic theaters, and vacant factories, and have demolished over 15,000 blighted structures.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s latest report, “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies,” utilizes interviews, conference presentations, media coverage, and land bank documents to assess the current state of land banking in Ohio.  Through its research, GOPC places land banks in the larger context of community revitalization and highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.

GOPC found that each of Ohio’s 22 county land banks is tailored to their local circumstances, although most have shaped their missions to include the broad goals of:

  1. stabilizing and strengthening markets—particularly residential neighborhoods—to prevent further decline, and
  2. clearing a path for private sector re-engagement by lowering barriers through incentives, support, and resources.

Through the study, GOPC identified changes in local practices and state level policies that would further increase land banks’ effectiveness.  Recommended changes in state level policies include:

  • give counties the option to forgo holding forfeited land sales in cases in which properties on this list are more of a liability than asset
  • require county auditors to assess the condition and quality of properties at the same time they are assessed for value
  • provide immunity to trespassing charges to county land bank officials who enter blighted properties

 While Ohio’s county land banks are still early in their development, and many have yet to implement all the tools available to them, “Taking Stock of Ohio’s County Land Banks” concludes that land banks are having impact in their communities and hold great promise for the future.

For more information and a copy of this report please visit “Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practice and Promising Strategies.”

 

Managing Distressed Properties at Wells Fargo Community Development

May 1st, 2015

Guest post by Lauren Martinez of Wells Fargo REO Community Development

In a little-known corner of Wells Fargo lives the REO (real estate owned) Community Development Team. This 30 person team, on a basic level, manages distressed properties that have gone through foreclosure while trying to find a suitable nonprofit organization or municipality to receive the properties as donations. The idea is pretty simple, but the effects of the idea create something wonderful out of (nearly) nothing.

This program began in 2009 and has grown over the past six years to donating more than 1,500 properties each year. Of course, there are some regions and states that see more donations than others, states like Florida, Maryland, and, more recently, New York. Wells Fargo operates both a large scale program that donates multiple properties at a time to organizations that have a housing-focused mission and extensive experience rehabilitating homes, as well as a smaller scale program called the Community and Urban Stabilization Program (known as CUSP). This program focuses on a wider target of non-profit organizations and places of worship that do not necessarily have a housing mission but do have the desire and ability to rehabilitate and use a distressed property for a good purpose. The underlying idea of both of these programs is to provide these non-profits and the communities that they serve with an opportunity to stabilize neighborhoods that need it.

It’s truly inspiring to see the wonderful things the nonprofits do with the properties. From vacant lots, we’ve seen community gardens and parks appear; from distressed homes we’ve seen food pantries, low income housing, non-profit office and meeting spaces take shape. The possibilities are virtually endless, and we at Wells Fargo are so proud to play a part in it. It’s no secret that the non-profits are those that put in the long hours and hard labor to put these homes and lots to good use. I often like to think of the process as growing a garden. The non-profits spend the time cultivating, watering, nurturing and weeding out what’s causing the blight. We’re providing the seed for the organizations to make something beautiful out of a less than ideal situation.

“From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” –Aeschylus

If you’d like more information on our programs, please visit http://reo.wellsfargo.com/community.

The pictures provided below are before and after photos of a rehabilitation completed by the Trumbull County Land Bank, located in Warren, Ohio. This non-profit organization’s focus is “to help return vacant and abandoned properties in Trumbull County, Ohio, to productive use.” The house is now a “first home” for a young couple.

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Living Area Before

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Living Area After

Read the rest of this entry »

GOPC Co-Hosts Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets

February 4th, 2015

This Tuesday, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) co-hosted the Roundtable, “Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets: Strategies for Linking Small Business Support and Commercial Vacant Property Reuse in Ohio’s Communities” in partnership with the Ohio CDC Association and the Finance Fund. This Roundtable was part of ongoing work that GOPC will be conducting to promote the combination of small business support and commercial vacant properties in Ohio’s communities. We’ve included presentations and materials from the event below.

Introductory presentation by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, framing the event:

Brachman introduced the discussion by demonstrating the need for further efforts to connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout Ohio.

 

Presentation by Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN:

Temali presented the Neighborhood Development Center’s unique approach that involves training local entrepreneurs and redeveloping commercial vacant properties where their new businesses can locate.

Temali also provided the following materials:

 

Presentation by Kimberly Faison, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for ProsperUS in Detroit, MI:

Faison discussed how they are adopting the Neighborhood Development Center’s model in Detroit by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods.

Faison also provided the following materials:

 

Overall, this Roundtable provided an opportunity to discuss the merits of this model, relevant existing programs and practices in Ohio, and efforts needed for a potential longer-term effort that would connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout the state. We look forward to engaging further in this work!

 

A Lesson in Pivoting a Legacy City from the Hamilton Mill

January 8th, 2015

Guest post by Antony Seppi, Operations Director of the Hamilton Mill in the City of Hamilton, Ohio

The “pivot,” according to Merriam-Webster is the “action of turning around a point.” The legacy cities of Ohio and other Midwest cities need to be adept at making these “pivots” for the sake of their long-term survival. Hamilton is pivoting with significant downtown revitalization strategies that will reclaim our urban core. “The Mill,” as it is affectionately known throughout Southwest Ohio, is Hamilton’s small business incubator and is just one piece of the many exciting initiatives taking place in this rustbelt community. Our City’s Economic Development Department has been recognized on several fronts and the pieces are in place to carry the momentum forward. This is all after being dealt several crippling blows in the early 2010’s that included the shuddering of two paper mills, the loss of a major downtown employer, and the after effects of the Great Recession. This is all happening in a legacy city that was built on manufacturing – automotive, beverage, paper, and steel.

In July of 2014, the new and improved Hamilton Mill was unveiled. A new era of business incubation is taking place at The Hamilton Mill, which is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. We are Southwestern Ohio’s only small business incubator dedicated to green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. We are leveraging the extremely progressive City of Hamilton utilities department that delivers gas, water, electric, waste treatment, and broadband services to our residents and businesses. The municipally provided utilities will be 75%-80% renewable energy when the Meldahl Hydroelectric project comes on-line in 2015. This revolutionary change is taking place now.

The Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small business, has determined that younger firms are the job creators, and The Mill will be an important part of that going forward. We have succeeded in developing significant collaborations with organizations that share our passion for transforming the region’s innovation landscape. It is a formula that has proven itself countless times, and it is a valued principal that has come to define us, as well as the advancement of the region’s start-up community.

We are not new to the game, just more engaged with the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and the needs of Southwest Ohio. The incubator has served Butler County and Southwest Ohio since 2003 and will continue to provide a home to high growth startups that are building things, specifically around manufacturing, clean technology, and digital applications. Below are some key metrics and awards that we have been recognized for since we began our relaunch initiative one year ago.

Mill-Stats

As you can see, our mindset at The Mill is all about innovation and making the swift, key pivots that are required from organizations to be successful. The Mill, in and of itself, is a start-up – just like the start-ups that we are mentoring and recruiting to be part of our journey.

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GOPC Participates in Conferences on Community Revitalization

November 3rd, 2014

GOPC has been keeping busy! Want to find out what we’ve been up to? Take a look at the events GOPC has been participating in:

CEOs for Cities

CEOs for Cities National Meeting
Nashville, Tennessee
November 4-6, 2014

Our Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, attended the CEOs for Cities National Meeting in Nashville this year. The meeting convened leaders from around the globe to learn the smartest ways to measure, benchmark and catalyze city progress, exchange best practices for cross-sector collaboration, and explore the smartest ideas for reaping dividends through targeted, measurable investments in economic growth and opportunity.

Participants explored what the city of Nashville has to offer. CEOs for Cities has also announced they will be releasing City Vitals 3.0 at the meeting. There are still a few slots open, so visit the website and register today to see what these city leaders have to say.

 

Ohio Housing Conference

Ohio Housing Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 4-6, 2014

GOPC’s Associate Director, Alison Goebel, presented at this year’s Ohio Housing Conference, “United for Ohio’s Communities.” This meeting celebrated the impact that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing’s common mission of providing decent affordable housing has had on Ohio’s residents, communities and economy. Those who attended were able to converse with over 1,600 peers who are passionate about affordable housing and engage in over 50 sessions and workshops.

Alison’s first presentation, titled “Effective Partnerships: From Demolition to Development,” is included below:

Panel Description: This session will discuss a broad range of vacant property issues including how demolition funding is used by land banks to assist cities/towns to strategically target blight, and assist developers in effective redevelopment and long-term community stabilization. Who are the players and partners, (perhaps some you haven’t thought of) that can help? What are the roadblocks facing efforts to combat vacancy and blight? How can we develop partnerships to make the most impact from limited funding resources across the board – from demolition to development?

The panel also included:

  • Carlie J. Boos, Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA)
  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Aaron K. Sorrell, City of Dayton

GOPC also presented on the “Legacy Cities” panel and gave the following presentation:

Panel Description: An overview of revitalization and preservation of the social aspects of neighborhoods including retail recruitment, public space, amenities for residents and priorities for pedestrians including bicycles and walkable neighborhoods.

The panel also featured:

  • Margo Warminski, Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA)
  • Daniel J. Hammel, University of Toledo

 

Habitat

Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 11-12, 2014

Alison Goebel presented at this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference on a panel titled “County Land Banks: Opportunities for Partnership in Neighborhood Revitalization” on November 12th. This session described what county land banks do in Ohio and how they operate. Then, panelists representing two different Habitat affiliates and a county land bank discussed how partnerships among land banks and non-profits can mutually benefit each organization and highlighted strategies and models that can be replicated in other communities.

Other panelists included:

  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Amy Hamrick, Richland County Land Bank
  • Dawn Stutz, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati