Benefits for employees who help the community

One of the “selling points” I’ve often heard people use for justifying their staying in Dayton (the region) is that “it’s a good place to raise kids”- and the other is that it’s affordable. But in general, our community has a collective self-loathing that makes no sense.

Every time I hear about a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, water shortages or the price of a studio apartment in New York City I say to myself – wow, we’ve got it great in Dayton. But, employers are still  complaining that they have a hard time finding and keeping good employees- and we also see a lot of rearranging of the deck chairs in the name of “economic development” with businesses moving away from foreclosures, crime, disinvestment instead of attacking the problem head on.

The only exception that I know of has been Premier Health Partners who’ve invested heavily in the Fairgrounds Neighborhood with the Genesis Project, and then in the neighborhoods surrounding Good Sam with the Phoenix project. Only in the last few years has Kettering Health followed suit in the area around Grandview (which may be an example of too little, too late).

As part of the Genesis project, Premier quietly gave “Employer Assisted Housing” a shot. Instead of just renovating and building new homes and hoping that they’d attract better neighbors, Premier offered down payments of up to $10K for employees to buy homes in the surrounding neighborhoods (including South Park), You can call it social engineering, but there is a lot to be said for protecting your investment. They never quite got the nurse who moved next door to walk to work- which would have been an even bigger savings to them since the cost of parking is a necessary evil for them- but, they managed to stabilize a house and have one less home requiring police calls on a regular basis (my old neighbors were constantly threatening to kill each other in between getting married, divorced and remarried).

Premier has gone out of their way to improve safety in our neighborhoods by funding two neighborhood police officers and for the first ten years, a social worker who helped the police try to connect problem homes with social services. It was an ambitious effort.

The investment has paid off, with most property values increasing (until the 2009 crash) and the community strengthening. As far as we know, they no longer offer the housing assistance, but, in our eyes it was money well spent.

Which brings me to an event happening next Monday- (full disclosure- my business, The Next Wave has worked with Tammy Murphy over the last half dozen years) a FREE seminar explaining the benefit of employer-assisted housing and how it can help companies attract and retain the best possible employees:

Monday, July 16 from 7:30 am – 11:00 am. This event includes FREE BREAKFAST BUFFET for those who RSVP in advance. The following is scheduled agenda to which you, fellow co-workers, HR Personnel, Managers or interested parties are invited (just please be sure to RSVP so we can have an accurate count for participation.)

7:30 am Breakfast / Networking
8:00 am Opening Remarks WELCOME
8:15-9:00 City Mayor(s) Discussion
9:00-9:30 Guest Speaker
9:30-10:00 Non-Profit Organizations
10:00-10:30 Lender Panel Remarks
10:30-11:00 Realtor Panel Remarks

via E A H | The “FORUM” Agenda has been set.

As someone who has seen the benefit of Employer Assisted Housing work as a tool for strengthening both the neighborhood and employee retention (most of the plans include some term of service) I encourage those of you who are running businesses that are in questionable neighborhoods, or in growth mode and looking for ways to make recruiting easier, to attend.

There is one other government program that you should consider in relationship to an EAH plan- if your business is in a HUBzone (an area designated by the SBA as a Historically Underutilized Business zone) which includes much of Dayton including South Park- and at least 35% of your employees live within the HUBzone, you are able to bid on government contracts as a set aside. Vaughn Interior Concepts (the local company that’s saving ISUS) has managed to parlay their HUBzone status into a continuous workflow from the Veterans Administration. Besides being a great neighborhood to live in, I’ve encouraged my staff over the years to live in the neighborhood and walk to work, which has worked out well and has also helped us maintain our HUBzone status.

With the price of commuting rising, getting employees to be within walking distance can also act as an effective raise. There is zero downside to offering this kind of benefit- so RSVP asap, as seats are getting scarce.

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