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Franklin County Launches Entrepreneur Accelerator

Forward Cities Local Director L.C. Johnson speaking next to the organization's CEO Christopher Gergen.
Nick Evans
Forward Cities Local Director L.C. Johnson speaking next to the organization's CEO Christopher Gergen.

Franklin County commissioner Kevin Boyce says that well-off neighborhoods boast more resources available to get a new business off the ground.

“But poorer areas of town often lack access,” Boyce says. “If we want to create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship, we have to be intentional about making sure that those resources are available to each and every person.”

To that end, the county is partnering with a group called Forward Cities and launching a two-year pilot program aimed at helping people start businesses in under-served areas by connecting entrepreneurs with capital and expertise.

Forward Cities has been operating around the country since 2014, and it’s already started work in other Ohio cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland. Local director L.C. Johnson explains people don’t have the opportunity to turn good ideas into businesses.

“We are going to be focused on building an entire community environment that uplifts and supports individuals who have historically not had access to economic and entrepreneurial opportunities in the same way as some of their peers,” she says.

And Johnson emphasizes the role of entrepreneurs in the process. She says the idea is to let them lead and find ways to offer support.

“So I’m not going to be coming up with solutions, we’re going to be in the neighborhood talking to entrepreneurs, and then bringing them in to talk about what solutions they want to help us build," she says.

County officials will devote $125,000 to the effort over two years. Other organizations, including the Columbus Partnership and the venture funding firm Rev1, will bring the total investment to $500,00.  A new Inclusive Entrepreneurship Council will oversee the program.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.