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New Grant Helps Oxford Workforce Development Center Move Forward

Courtesy of Miami University
This building near the corner of College Ave. and Elm St. in Oxford will soon become a workforce development center.

A planned workforce development center in Oxford is getting another financial boost. JobsOhio is awarding a Vibrant Community Grant to help fund the College@Elm Innovation and Workforce Development Center.

The $1.5 million grant brings the total funds raised so far to $4.5 million out of a projected cost of $10.7 million. The city of Oxford, Miami University and The Fischer Group are working together and are the three anchor tenants. They say the goal is to "create more than 50 Ohio jobs, bolster a distressed rural economy, and attract new businesses to Oxford."

Randi Thomas, vice president of ASPIRE (Advancing Strategy, Partnerships, Institutional Relations and Economy) at Miami, says there's a need to transition the city from "an eight-month economy that services the university and students to a 12-month economy where regardless of whether the students are here or the university is open, those jobs still go on."

Oxford is looking to increase the number of high quality jobs available that aren't necessarily connected to the university, says Jessica Greene, assistant Oxford city manager. People need to be able to have a good job near where they live, she adds.

"So often we're trying to get people to live in our community and one spouse might be able to get a job at Miami but there's nothing for the other spouse so they end up living in another region ... and we'd love to be able to say 'Welcome to our community, we have enough jobs for anyone who wants one, and reside here.' "

That benefits the university too, Thomas adds, because potential hires are looking for good opportunities for their so-called trailing spouse or partner.

Credit Courtesy of Miami University
An artist rendering of a light manufacturing and robotics lab.

Greene notes that as a college town there are lots of service sector jobs related to restaurants or retail, but they don't pay a lot. "To be able to have a livable wage job in our community is something that we are very much looking forward to growing."

Greene and Thomas agree the city and university aim to make this a model for other small college towns. Thomas is particularly interested in seeing how the center will bolster entrepreneurial growth with an infusion of college-age students.

"The uniqueness about this endeavor is that we really want to pull in 20,000 undergraduate young minds into not only the Oxford but the Southwestern and Western Ohio ecosystems," says Thomas.

Part of that strategy involves taking a "pull" approach to develop new businesses based on existing companies, technology or products. One example he offers is a partnership with Wright Patterson Air Force Base to provide a thousand of its idle patents for accelerator participants to develop and take to commercialization.

"We believe that's a model that can be replicated."

Miami aims to launch three startups per year, according to a statement.

Work on the 39,000-square foot building at 20. S. Elm St. is expected to begin in about six weeks and last a year to 16 months. An opening is slated for 2023.

College@Elm's anchor tenants are:

  • Miami, operating an Entrepreneurship Center and providing entrepreneurial support functions.
  • The Fischer Group, a Butler County manufacturing company, operating a business "innovation extension."
  • The city of Oxford, operating a workforce development and small business resource center.

Miami University is a financial supporter of Cincinnati Public Radio.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.