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Notes from the Field

The Tri-Bank Partnership with the Appalachia Funders Network

A partnership involving the AFN and three Reserve Banks is accelerating economic recovery in the Central Appalachia region.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

On April 1, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Cleveland, and Richmond—the members of Tri-Bank—met in Athens, Ohio, with the Appalachia Funders Network (AFN), an umbrella organization that includes more than 200 national and regional funding organizations from the public, private, and government sectors. This was the second year our Reserve Banks have partnered with AFN; in March 2013, we held a joint event in Asheville, NC.

The occasion this April was the AFN’s annual conference, whose theme was “The Power of Partnerships.” Working together, participants identified shared approaches for accelerating the recovery in the Central Appalachia region; we then presented them with ways to align their efforts with the AFN’s agenda to jointly impact the sectors of food systems, health, entrepreneurship, and information technology.

The conference was held in Athens, Ohio, in the southeastern part of the state, where shale extraction has recently become a key economic activity. Conference sessions explored how rural communities can retain wealth from shale extraction in their region, as well as the policy implications of boom–bust cycles in energy extraction.

The conference also covered business development through a case study of Ohio’s Third Frontier initiative, launched in 2002 as a $1.6 billion, 10-year investment in technology-based economic development. The goal of this discussion was to learn how shale extraction and business development opportunities through the Third Frontier initiative have affected rural areas and the policy implications surrounding both topics.

The Tri-Bank partnership has proven to be a valuable connection for the AFN. In addition to continuing to support their annual gatherings, our three banks can connect the funders’ group with subject matter experts in their areas of interest; currently, these interests are food systems, health, entrepreneurship, and information technology. We are also able to connect AFN members to other, larger funders through our Federal Reserve Philanthropy Initiative. Finally, we can coordinate our efforts with those of other federal agencies, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, the USDA, the FDIC, and the OCC.

Our next step is to connect directly with representatives of the AFN’s steering committee to explore new ways of collaborating. These new endeavors may be audioconferences or webinars on specific areas of interest to the group. Further, each Reserve Bank will participate in one of the working groups on the AFN’s interests. The Tri-Bank partnership may help expand the AFN’s strategic interests to include workforce issues and healthy communities. It may also be useful to communicate applied research findings produced by the Federal Reserve System on topics that are relevant to the AFN.

More information about the Appalachia Funders Network and our partnership with the group is available here.