Fireland Forward officials hope to expand the Employer Resource Network, launch a digital tool for students and job seekers, and build an industry sector partnership in 2023, according to the organization’s director, David White.

Firelands Forward is a regional workforce development collaborative dedicated to connecting, retaining and attracting the workforce to the Firelands region of Huron, Erie and Ottawa counties.

White said the establishment of the area’s first Employer Resource Network (ERN) was the top accomplishment for Firelands Forward in 2022. The network serves more than 1,600 local employees.

The ERN is designed to help employers solve retention challenges and break down employment barriers by connecting employees to applicable resources. A coach works at the place of employment to directly engage with the workforce. The ERN also provides business leaders with data and regional collaboration to help address their challenges.

Last year, Firelands Forward partnered with the Norwalk Area United Fund to bring 2-1-1 service to Huron County, another highlight for the organization, according to White.

The 2-1-1 service, which is available 24/7/365, focuses on dispensing non-emergency community information such as financial assistance information, utility assistance, transportation options, mental health and recovery resources, services for elderly and disabled individuals, veteran services, immunization and health care options, clothing closets and thrift stores, food pantries and nutrition programs, housing and shelters, crisis services, and legal resources.

Another significant accomplishment in 2022 was Firelands Forward becoming an award-winning organization, White said.

In September, Firelands Forward received the top award in the Talent Development and Retention category during the International Economic Development Council ‘s Excellence in Economic Development Awards program.

The International Economic Development Council is the world’s largest nonprofit professional association for professional economic developers.

Through the implementation of various programming solutions, Firelands Forward continues to work with community partners to solve major employment barriers, increase retention, and attract new talent to the region.

White said he was surprised by “the resilience of our community and the ability to collaborate and build system-based solutions with partners that care deeply about their communities.”

White also noted the challenges of 2022. “It is tough labor environment for businesses and communities,” he said. “The combination of a pandemic, a downturn in the economy, and a steep benefits cliff for our residents created a need to look systematically at how we address workforce solutions because there is not one easy fix.”

Looking ahead to this year, White said he would like to see Firelands Forward grow its capacity to provide Employer Resource Network services to more businesses in the region. He also looks forward to the launch of WorkInFirelands, a digital tool for students and job seekers that connects them to local internships and employment opportunities.

White said Firelands Forward also wants to build a state-recognized industry sector partnership in tourism, hospitality, and Main Street business. Some of the organization’s initiatives were discussed last year at a Huron County commissioners meeting.

In addition to White, Firelands Forward employs Makenna Laser as the manager of communications and business services, and Luis Quezada as the wellness coach for the Employer Resource Network.

White said people might be surprised to learn that Firelands Forward desires to “grow to five employees” this year in order to “better serve our communities.”

For more information about the organization, visit View the official article here: Firelands Forward looks to expand Employer Resource Network and launch a digital tool in 2023 (

Firelands Forward: 247 Columbus Avenue, Sandusky, OH, United States, Ohio