MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Richland Community Development Group has welcomed a couple of fresh faces to its staff in the new year to help drive economic development locally: Barrett Thomas and Karen Seman.
Thomas, a Mansfield resident, has been selected the director of business retention and expansion and Seman of Canton, Michigan, the director of workforce development.
"We're excited at RCDG to hire these two folks," said John Brown, RCDG chairman and Richland Bank president. "The resources that have been brought to bear by our private donors and our partnership with the county and the (Richland County) Foundation have allowed us to hire these folks and to do even more in the world of economic and community development."
The two were hired as part of the Richland County Foundation’s $1.1 million five-year transformative strategic plan. Their positions are funded by the Foundation, Richland County Jobs and Family Services and private donors. RCJFS initially is investing $50,000 in the workforce development portion of the program.
"The resources and these partnerships are a vote of confidence for the work of RCDG and the direction that we're heading," Brown noted.
Thomas most recently was the microfinance manager at Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield. He also teaches economics and accounting at The Ohio State University at Mansfield.
Seman's prior position was the marketing director at Industrial Technical Institute/Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth, Michigan.
Brown said Thomas and Seman will work to help meet local business needs, "whether it's looking for ways to be more efficient, looking for ways to expand and invest in new facilities or new equipment and maybe bringing some resources that are available out of state or on a national level to these local businesses," he said.
According to Maura Teynor, director of donor services and communications at RCF, discussions that eventually led to the creation of the five-year strategic plan began a couple years ago.
The Foundation’s long range strategic plan called the Greater Richland Partnership includes:
The centralization of business retention and expansion and workforce development efforts
A scale-up program to identify and target services to area companies to address specific challenges and catalyze growth
The empowerment of existing organizations to promote entrepreneurship and related services across the county
A community website to be launched to serve as an economic performance dashboard to track successes and show progress toward important goals of the new plan
RCF President Brady Groves said a consulting firm by the name "JumpStart" has identified 63 opportunities related to workforce development and other expansion possibilities for this area.
"My hope is that they (Thomas and Seman) would pick up on those 63 opportunities and see where they lead," Groves said.
"I'm going to learn a lot," Thomas said. "I don't know how many people are ever in a position where they get to see how an entire community works together economically.
"That's a privilege that very few people would ever get."
Thomas said as director of business retention and expansion, he will help businesses solve problems and capitalize on opportunities--similar to the work he did at Braintree.
As director of workforce development, Seman said, "I think what's most important in this position is to listen and be a voice of the business community."
Seman said she has reason to be optimistic for this area with regard to economic development.
"Through the hiring process I've met with a number of people who are enthusiastic to collaborate and bring resources to the table, people who are willing to work together to address problems," she said.
"I'm excited about that. I've got a very cooperative group behind me."