The Southwest Florida ARRA Regional Partners group began meeting in the spring of 2009. A wide variety of organizations including educational institutions, local government, economic development organizations, nonprofits, and others, have met monthly to discuss ARRA funding opportunities, the need to collaborate on regional initiatives, avoid duplication of services and increase efforts to strengthen the regional economy. The Recovery Act was the impetus to begin coordinating to secure federal and state funding and to leverage local resources. This collaborative effort helps to maximize resources, address common challenges and expand or add needed services.
Competitive grant applications and resource development efforts are typically more successful when they include partnerships with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and the businesses community. In addition, the federal government has been encouraging collaborative partnership efforts as they release Notices of Funding Availability (NOFA). By demonstrating that a local community has identified a shared vision on a community issue, established a broad base of support, and identified scarce resources that can be used as leverage, the collaborative partnership is more likely to secure competitive grant funding.
Within the Southwest Florida ARRA Regional initiative, alliances have begun to form around green job training and education initiatives. The City of Fort Myers identified a number of local partners to coordinate with in their efforts to secure a green jobs training grant called Pathways Out of Poverty. An education partnership has developed which includes the 5 area school districts, Edison State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. This education collaboration is focused on improving the connections between the K-20 educational institutions and the business community. The educators are looking at partnering on federal grants including Investment in Innovation (i3) and future broadband opportunities that would provide public computer centers to increase children and families access to the internet.
Successful partnerships create a win-win situation for all parties and SWFL organizations are looking for ways to make this happen throughout the region.