In September 2002, a group of Ohio foundations, led by the Gund Foundation, convened a workshop in Cleveland to discuss the challenges of advancing smart growth in the state. Following these meetings, outreach around the state confirmed that success meant winning fundamental changes in how the State of Ohio influences the location of urban and suburban growth and development, and the ultimate goal should be to create an environment that is more supportive of the redevelopment of existing communities and more protective of the countryside and natural resources.
By the end of 2003, the Gund Foundation leveraged major grants from the Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, as well as other Ohio funders. In January 2004, the Greater Ohio Campaign was launched at the Statehouse Atrium, intended to influence the 2006 gubernatorial campaign debate over state smart growth, land use, and economic redevelopment policy. From 2006-2008, Greater Ohio, with the Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition, co-organized and led “Rebuild Ohio,” an initiative concerned with the debilitating effects of vacant and abandoned property. ReBuild Ohio, a consortium of local government, nonprofit and civic organizations working to promote revitalization through policy and practices, wrote and produced a research report, “Sixty Million and Counting: The cost of vacant and abandoned properties to eight Ohio cities,” to raise awareness among policymakers and promote an exchange of best practices among local officials.
In 2007, the Greater Ohio campaign incorporated and became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization formally known as the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC). During this year, GOPC and the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program entered into a three year partnership, called “Restoring Prosperity to Ohio,” an organizing, education, research, and policy development initiative culminating in a major state policy report issued in 2010. As part of that Initiative, in 2008, GOPC and the Brookings Institution hosted a major policy summit attracting over 1000 participants from around the state, which launched the public education phase of the Restoring Prosperity Initiative. In February 2010, GOPC released its game-changing report, “Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio's Communities for the Next Economy,” which provided a bold blueprint for state and local leaders to use in formulating new policies and practices.
In April 2010, Greater Ohio, along with a diverse coalition of nonprofits and local and regional civic officials successfully lobbied for the "Land Bank Bill," building on the efforts of the existing Cuyahoga County land bank to authorize the creation of land banks in 41 additional counties. Of the 900 bills brought before the 128th General Assembly between 2008 and 2010, this was one of only 58 bills signed and passed.
In December 2011, GOPC jointly hosted “Across the Spectrum: The Future of Ohio and the Path to Prosperity,” a conference that brought together twenty experts and over 300 attendees to debate a variety of solutions to some of the most urgent policy challenges facing Ohio and the nation.
In April 2012, GOPC organized and hosted the Ohio Redevelopment Properties Institute,an innovative two-day forum that promoted solutions to vacant and abandoned properties. Nearly 200 local leaders from municipalities and non-profit community development organizations across the state attended.
In June 2012, GOPC was contracted by the Attorney General’s office to assist communities in applying for Moving Ohio Forward funds that provided grants for the demolition of abandoned residential properties. This contract confirmed that the state of Ohio recognizes GOPC as a resource and agent for change in the state.
In January 2013, officials in the Governor’s Office contracted GOPC to conduct independent research on the potential cost savings and other benefits that could emerge from government collaboration and other the state contracted GOPC for research. This research allows GOPC to bring visibility to its governance reform policy platform.
Over the last few years, through a strategic mix of advocacy, research, publications, convenings, and stakeholder partnerships, GOPC has established a reputation for excellence using data-based analysis to drive independent, creative policy reforms and as an organizer that achieves practical, politically-savvy results.
In July 2016, Co-Founder and Executive Director Lavea Brachman departed GOPC to begin a position at the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation in Detroit, Michigan.