News & Announcements

Molly Schnoke Appointed Director of Levin’s Center for Economic Development

Molly Schnoke, Director of the Center for Community Planning and Development (CCPD), and Program Manager of the Unger Program at the Levin College, has been appointed the new director of Levin’s Center for Economic Development (CED). Schnoke brings over 20 years of experience in community and economic development to her role. Her recent research has focused on topics including equitable neighborhood and community development, economic and workforce development, and youth development.

Schnoke joined the Levin College in 2006. Prior to that she served as the Assistant Director of Research at the Center for Regional Economic Issues (REI) at Case Western Reserve University. Schnoke earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The Ohio State University and received her Master of Arts from The University of Akron.

During her time at Levin, she has worked with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, where she monitors and reports on regional economic strategies for Northeast Ohio. Schnoke has also been instrumental in developing key community outreach and partnership programs at the College, including the Unger Program, which was founded to catalyze an educational bridge between the Levin College and the University of Rijeka. Today, the program serves to support and foster economic and community development through independent research and civic education and engagement. Under Schnoke’s direction, the program continues to partner in important efforts, such as the annual Economics of Digital Transformation conference at the Faculty of Economics and Business in the University of Rijeka.

Since 1985, the Center for Economic Development has been designated a US Economic Development Administration University Center serving Northeast Ohio and the state of Ohio by providing technical assistance, applied research, and public policy recommendations. The Center works with economic development organizations, state and local governments, and businesses to improve Ohio’s competitive advantage and help in the regional transformation to a knowledge-based economy.

Throughout her time at Levin College, Schnoke has conducted key research initiatives impacting our region. Both the CPPD and CED have seen much growth under her direction.

Most recently, Schnoke and her team in the Center for Economic Development, in partnership with the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, have engaged in an ongoing effort to track the economic consequences of the February 3, 2023, Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Their initial report focuses specifically on effects felt throughout the city of East Palestine, with special attention paid to the evacuation area, and covers the period from the date of the derailment until two weeks afterward (through February 17, 2023). This period coincides with the mandatory evacuation time ordered by the office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and serves to frame the early economic impacts on the community.

The results show conservative estimations and act as a starting point for understanding the extent of the economic impact of the derailment on the people of East Palestine. This is the first in a series of reports examining the immediate economic impact of the train derailment and mitigation of derailment consequences using public and private assistance. The initial report aims to bring attention to the magnitude of economic losses suffered by the community and the response needed from the government, first responders, and the company to compensate for those damages and provide the appropriate remediation services.

In 2021, Dr. Roland V. Anglin, Dean and Professor at the Levin College, together with Schnoke and a team of researchers in the CED, were awarded a two-year, $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) as a part of RWJF's "Policies for Action: Research on Housing Policies That Promote Equity" program. Levin partner Cleveland Neighborhood Progress was also part of the research team.

Their project, “Investing in the Middle: A New Approach to Deliver on the Promise of Equitable Neighborhood Development,” addresses equity and health in middle neighborhoods. Through this effort, Schnoke and her team have performed actionable research in the areas of strategic investments and policy innovations that have the potential to increase housing affordability, neighborhood stability, and to inform the work of policymakers, funders, and community development practitioners across America's industrial heartland.

In addition to the final report, an innovative project outcome has included a National Neighborhood Mapping Tool. The publicly available interactive mapping tool displays the results from the typology developed in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Middle Neighborhoods work. Although this project focuses on case study communities, this tool includes the data for all 66,679 neighborhoods in the study area.

As part of its ongoing research, the Center also organized the Investing in the Middle forum to present the work the team has done and gain insight into policy and best practices from members of the community. The workshop took place on November 20, 2022.

Through their work on this project, the research team aims to inform the work of policymakers, funders, and community development practitioners across America's industrial heartland.

The Center for Economic Development’s "Resource Gaps for Minority Entrepreneurs in Ecosystems: Assessment to Practice" project was among the grantees funded in Kauffman's 2020 Knowledge Challenge and continues under Schnoke’s leadership.

This study assessed minority resource gaps in entrepreneurial ecosystems (EEs) in Dayton, Ohio. The iterative-process project explored the local factors of EEs that drive growth for minority entrepreneurs; the gaps in access to different resources for minority entrepreneurs in the ecosystem; and the challenges and benefits of intervening with a growing minority entrepreneurship ecosystem. Schnoke and her team worked with leadership at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce to foster participation through service provider interviews and a survey of small businesses and entrepreneurs in the region.

Following the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, the US Economic Development Administration provided the CED with additional funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act University Center Supplemental Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Awards, to support its work on responding to economic injury on the local and regional economies in Ohio.

The two-year project supported work in areas of technical assistance, applied research, and workforce development, specifically as it related to economic recovery efforts from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Center for Economic Development published significant research during this period, focusing on topics such as pandemic recovery in Ohio, remote worker incentive programs, and pandemic-related business assistance, while exploring the extent to which federal, state, and local government legislation was effective in mitigating issues such as employment and housing instability.

In 2018, Schnoke published “Opportunity Youth Programs based in Urban and Metropolitan Universities: A Scan of the Field,” in partnership with Gregory Brown of Policy Bridge.

In the United States, nearly five million, or one in nine, young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are classified as “opportunity youth.” That is, they are neither in school nor in the workforce. This presents broad economic and social challenges for entire communities. CUMU member institutions can play a key role in addressing the barriers leading to these high levels of disconnection from education and employment.

This report identifies encouraging university-involved opportunity youth programs from across the CUMU membership and is a direct response to needs identified at a meeting between CUMU member institutions and the Annie E. Casey Foundation at the 2018 CUMU Annual Conference.

Following a competitive RFP process, the Center for Community Planning and Development was selected to carry out this important work. Schnoke’s research helped to establish new avenues for employment and educational opportunities that can be replicated across North America. In this report, researchers highlight a scan of the field with summary inventory of opportunity youth programs of CUMU member institutions; survey results of opportunity youth program participants; and a case study analysis of six opportunity youth programs at CUMU member institutions.