Greater Ohio Policy Center’s 2014 Accomplishments

December 19th, 2014
Greater Ohio Policy Center 2014

Happy holidays from Greater Ohio Policy Center! Pictured from left: Meg Montgomery, Lavea Brachman, Alison Goebel, Nicholas Blaine, Marianne Eppig, and Mary Pat Martin. Photo credit: Tobias Roediger of Rave, LTD.

Dear friends,

This year has been one of significant achievement for the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Throughout 2014, we have been advancing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio’s cities and regions by leading state level advocacy efforts and demonstrating innovative practices with communities across the state.  To see a complete list of our 2014 achievements, please visit our website.

We have taken a leadership role advocating for state level policy solutions, such as legislation for the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program and critical transportation policy reforms that are linked with economic regrowth. With local partners, we have also made considerable progress assisting communities in Youngstown, Dayton, Cleveland, and Columbus by working with them to invest strategically in their neighborhoods.

Our national profile continues to grow as our research on cities has been recognized for identifying critical policy gaps and innovative solutions. This important work has also provided us with a platform to convene mayors, practitioners, and academics from across the country to discuss best practices and to highlight efforts underway in Ohio.

Next year promises to be equally, if not more, exciting for Greater Ohio Policy Center. Cities are gaining the spotlight as magnets for people and firms that are driving demand for dense, walkable places and increased transportation options. Greater Ohio Policy Center is leading efforts to ensure that Ohio’s communities—large and small—take advantage of this opportunity for reinvestment and sustainable economic growth. In 2015, we will embark on new initiatives focused on neighborhood stabilization, city innovation and revival, commercial district revitalization, water and sewer infrastructure, advocacy for increased transportation options, and much more.

We hope that you join us for our June 2015 Summit, Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: Innovation and Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions, which will bring together national experts, state policymakers and local leaders who are transforming Ohio’s cities and regions in varied ways to forge a revitalization agenda that enhances Ohio’s 21st century economic competitiveness. Click here to learn more about the Summit.

Our 2014 successes and future initiatives would not be possible without the support of individuals like you.  Please take time to make a donation today, so that we can continue our work to create a greater Ohio.

With best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2015,

Lavea Brachman & the Greater Ohio Policy Center staff

 

Brachman Presents on Building an Innovation Economy in America’s Legacy Cities

October 15th, 2014

InnovationCity

Last week, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman presented at the Innovation and the City colloquium in Boston. The event convened scholars, policy makers, and practitioners to discuss the strategies, opportunities and drawbacks associated with innovation-based urban economic development.

Her panel, titled “Building an Innovation Economy in America’s Legacy Cities,” included:

  • Moderator: Mark Coticchia, Chief Innovation Officer, Henry Ford Innovation Institute, Detroit
  • Dean Amhaus, President and CEO, The Water Council, Milwaukee
  • Cathy Belk, COO, Jumpstart, Inc., Cleveland
  • Benjamin S. Kennedy, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit

Take a look at some of the tweets about Lavea’s presentation:

 ·  Oct 8

Legacy cities can be more competitive by innovating regionally says conference

 ·  Oct 8

thinks of the new economy in a broad way, from immigrant entrepreneurs in Dayton to high-tech

 ·  Oct 8

: transformation requires meeting places where they are–not every city will have a high revolution

Innovation and the City was hosted by The Venture Café Foundation, the non-profit sister organization of the Cambridge Innovation Center. The mission of the Venture Café Foundation has three key elements: to build and connect communities of innovation, to expand the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship, and to build a more inclusive innovation economy.

 

Touring Northwest Ohio

October 9th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

Periodically, GOPC staff likes to get out of the office and meet with leaders in their communities to learn about new and exciting changes that are developing throughout Ohio. With this mission in mind, earlier this month I visited Tiffin and Findlay to find out what is going on in these Northwest Ohio cities.

Tiffin has about 17,500 residents; Findlay about 41,500. Both are the home to smaller universities and have beautiful rivers running through their downtown. Findlay is the headquarters for two Fortune 500 companies—Marathon Petroleum and Cooper Tire–and Tiffin has several smaller manufacturing plants.

River

Tiffin has a number of planning processes underway to better leverage its cute downtown, which includes historic buildings and sits between Tiffin University and Heidelberg University.  As it is, in the last three years, the city has established a local job creation tax credit that complements the state tax credit, signaling to employers that the city wants to be business friendly. The city has also created a facade enhancement program to help downtown building owners, and they have established a revitalization district in downtown and along a major corridor to help attract businesses. Small businesses have already begun to return to empty storefronts in downtown and the downtown redevelopment plans are expected to help Tiffin become even more strategic with its resources.

Tiffin Green Space

Downtown Findlay is very picturesque and almost all storefronts have first floor tenants.  Marathon is expanding their downtown campus and a large grocery distributor is building a new facility on the edge of town that will employ 425 residents. While Findlay is working at distinct corporate advantage with its two Fortune 500 headquarters located within its borders, Findlay elected officials credit the city’s success to the private sector’s engagement and commitment to having a thriving city now and in the future. Officials explain that the city’s governing philosophy is “to create an environment for investment” and that “if companies know what to expect and know it’s a safe place [to invest] they will come.”  Long ago, Findlay committed to making it as easy as possible for their businesses to expand and stay. Findlay’s investment areas are predictable, their commitment to respond to corporate needs is established, and leaders in all sectors understand that they depend on one another for long-term success.

Findlay

I appreciated the opportunity to meet with officials that are valuing the power of their downtowns and recognize the economic and social benefits of thriving business districts and collaborative cross-sector relationships. Hats off to Findlay and Tiffin!

 

Lessons of a GOPC Intern

September 3rd, 2014

A farewell blog post by Raquel Jones, a fantastic GOPC Intern

As a lifetime resident of the capital of Ohio, I have come to learn and appreciate the unique experiences and amenities offered through Ohio’s cities. Over the years, I have witnessed the many transformations that Columbus and many other cities in the state have gone through as they have fought to create new identities while retaining their historic presence.

IMG_20110619_155306

Columbus, Ohio

Although I was young when it first hit, the Great Recession had a severe impact on my neighborhood and the community that I lived in, as it did in many parts of the state. I remember noticing a rise in foreclosures in the houses surrounding mine. Looking around the core of central Ohio’s metropolitan area, I could see the harsher effects of the downturn in the economy in the high number of boarded-up homes. I found this to be extremely disheartening, as I knew that many of these homes had the potential to be beautiful and once again serve a useful purpose, if only they were given the chance.

When I enrolled in the John Glenn High School Internship program through OSU, I knew that I wanted to work with a nonprofit that was working hard in the community to make a difference. When I was given the chance to intern at the Greater Ohio Policy Center, I knew little about land banks and government-sponsored programs, such as Moving Ohio Forward and the Neighborhood Initiative Program. I am now happy to report that I am knowledgeable in both programs, as well as others. Working at the GOPC has not only taught me about the daily functions of an office, but has also informed me on the process of policy formation, and the role that nonprofits play in engaging and interacting with local, regional, and statewide governments in producing outcomes that are favorable to both parties, as well as the constituents to which these policies affect. I have also become educated in a number of nationwide movements including the call for a multi-modal city, a more sustainably secure system of infrastructure, and public spaces that transcend the mundane. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rise of Concentrated Suburban Poverty in the 21st Century

August 27th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

At the turn of the century, the sum of urban poor greatly outnumbered the sum of suburban residents living beneath the federal poverty line[i]. However, much has changed in the physical location of poverty over the last decade, so much so that it may now be said that suburbs contain nearly as many high-poverty[ii] tracts as cities, and almost half of all of the metro area poor population living in high-poverty tracts live in suburbs. These neighborhoods have the potential to become areas of concentrated poverty in due time, which is why there is a need for them to be closely monitored. Suburbs face an uphill battle in combating this unforeseen problem, as they are ill-equipped and unprepared for this growing issue.

The most challenging aspect of this revision in demographic trends lies in the distribution of poverty, which has been marked by intermittent clusters of poor in the display of distressed neighborhoods[iii]. As documented in the American Community Survey, the concentrated poverty rate (the share of poor residents living in distressed tracts) had jumped from 9.1% in 2000 to 12.2% from 2008-2012.

 

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

Although concentrated poverty is still higher in urban areas, suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in the number of poor residents living in tracts of concentrated poverty between 2000 and 2008-12.

 

Impoverished neighborhoods provide residents with fewer opportunities and more hardships, so that locals become entrapped in an endless cycle of poverty, making it near impossible to escape. This, of course, has serious implications on the larger regions encompassing these run-down communities, as it becomes more difficult to promote growth in metropolitan areas when poverty proves to be a consistent issue. In order to more effectively tackle this growing issue, there is a need for more integrated and cross-cutting approaches. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership in the Queen City: Lessons from Cincinnati

August 11th, 2014

By Alison D. Goebel, Associate Director

As part of Leadership Ohio’s Class of 2014, I have been spending one weekend a month in a different Ohio city meeting local leaders and learning about the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the state.  I have participated in a team-building retreat in Oberlin, learned about state government in Columbus, and explored Ohio’s role in early American history in Marietta (you can read my thoughts on our Marietta trip here).

This month’s Leadership Ohio Class was held in Cincinnati and focused on sustainability and economic development.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown.  Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

View from the Observation Deck of the Carew Tower in Downtown. Over the Rhine is in the foreground and the Uptown neighborhoods of Clifton and Avondale on the hill.

I have always had soft spot for the Queen City, but the leaders we met and the projects we saw underway bowled me over.   Some lessons I learned from the weekend: Read the rest of this entry »

Reinventing Mansfield

August 4th, 2014

Guest post by Jennifer Kime

Concert

The revitalization challenges in downtown Mansfield are not unlike those of other mid-sized Legacy Cities where the struggle for right-sizing and redevelopment has been a harsh reality for decades.  While we have watched population, median income and property values plummet; we have only grown stronger in our resilience and commitment to a better future for our community. The process of reinventing our economic strategies here is unique in that it joins together commercial districts and neighborhoods where the programs and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the regional population, of which Mansfield is the urban center.

This community wide approach has allowed us greater flexibility and has enabled us to blossom in our revitalization years ahead of what we thought was possible. Because of our community’s size and lack of economic advantages available to larger cities, we began losing businesses and industry well before it was notable on the national scale. In fact, by the time the mortgage crisis hit, our business and retail environment had already been struggling for years, couple that with the manufacturing loss that we sustained with the closing of our GM plant and the loss of total income and resources to our community was nothing short of devastating. To many, it seemed impossible that we could come back from that loss and transition our economic fabric into a community with a downtown that is not only surviving, but is authentic, lively and thriving.

While the overall approach is multi-tiered, some of that success has been due to intense and relentless marketing and promotions, including entertainment programming aimed at showcasing the restoration of our built environment. The tipping point of community redevelopment is arguably the point at which the general public begins to believe that change is not only possible, but it is happening. The only way to change the stubborn, ingrained negative perceptions that flourish within the population of rust belt communities is to show them first hand. Through a combination of property tours (vacant, for rent, rented), shop hops, neighborhood block parties, car shows, farmers markets and free concerts, we bring thousands of people downtown each month. Those activities have spurred development interest from several new property developers, business owners, employees and mostly, the public, who are now coming to downtown for the first time to shop and dine.

While promotions and place-making are sometimes seen as the feel good neighbors of tax credits and fiscal incentives, their impact is real and tangible. When done correctly and sustainably, they create new businesses, new jobs and they retain the very community fabric that is at stake when the supply and demand of a region are not in our favor. It’s happening right now in Mansfield, Ohio.

For more information on the impact of the programs of Downtown Mansfield, Inc., see these recent news articles:

Downtown after dark: nightlife thriving” by Chike Erokwu for the Mansfield News Journal on Aug. 3, 2014

Final Friday Concert Series a raging success, spurs economic growth” by Emily Dech for the Richland Source on July 25, 2014

About the Author:

Jennifer Kime is the Executive Director of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. Currently, Jennifer’s main focus areas are in long term planning, preservation based planning, new program and project development and community development for the downtown and near downtown neighborhoods of Mansfield, Ohio.

www.downtownmansfield.com

www.facebook.com/downtownmansfield

Ohio Cities: Stabilize the Population Outflux by Attracting & Retaining the Millennial Generation

July 23rd, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Between the years 1970 and 2013, the city of Cleveland lost almost half of its population. In fact, most cities in the region have also witnessed a decline in population. However, this recent trend seems to have less to do with the location and more to do with the layout of these cities. The most evident reason for this rapid decline may point to the fact that young, educated Millennials favor core cities, as opposed to sprawling communities.

According to research conducted by the Pew Institute and Urban Land Institute, Millennials are driving less than previous generations. However, the Millennials are not alone in this recent trend, as the Baby Boomers are also eager to take advantage of urban amenities and walkable communities. A key component to attracting Millennials to cities is the availability and quality of transportation options. According to a recent survey, “55% of Millennials have a preference to live close to transit” (Yung). With more than half of those polled in favor of such an option, it is obvious that the demand for a multimodal city is real.

One of the most compelling arguments supporting this growing rejection of a car-dependent society points heavily at the financial strain induced by the costly upkeep of a car. With gas prices rising and car loans becoming harder to obtain, and as Millennials find themselves buried in a heap of college debt, owning a car no longer seems to be practical. For this reason, many are shifting to urban areas, where there are multiple transportation options and where almost everything that could be wanted or needed is only a short distance away.

Population of Ohio's Cities Millennial Population in Ohio Cities Millennial Percentage of Population in Ohio Cities

For the graphs above, Millennials were defined as being born between 1981 and 2000.

In Ohio, we need to do more to take advantage of these trends and to continue attracting and retaining populations that are interested in urban living in order to strengthen the economies of these cities and their surrounding regions. Some of Ohio’s cities are seeing more positive trends–attracting a greater percentage of Millennials–but in the context of ongoing population shrinkage in all of our major cities except Columbus, it is clear that Ohio’s work is not done. The state’s ability to leverage market demand for inner city living and further incentivize—and remove legislative barriers to—infill development within its cities will help determine Ohio’s future prosperity.

For more information about these national demographic trends, take a look at these articles:

Brownfield Grants Revitalize Columbus

June 17th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

The Columbus City Council is expected to approve grant money from their Green Columbus Fund sometime this year to redevelop vacant properties in the city. The Green Columbus Fund is a reimbursement grant program with a budget of $1 million that uses financial incentives to encourage sustainable development and redevelopment. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for grants to either redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green in Columbus.

In 2011, Columbus City Council accredited the first four grants under this program, utilizing almost one-fourth of the entire fund. These grants were awarded to two LEED projects and brownfield assessment work at two sites.

Potential developers of two properties now under consideration for a portion of the grant money hope to be able to conduct site assessment work to see whether or not they should go forward with their idea to build apartments on the site. Also under examination by the Columbus City Council is the former location of an old shoe factory on Front Street where the developer of apartments hopes to use the brownfield grant for asbestos remediation and underground tank removal.

Lessons for Small City Revitalization: The Regeneration of Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities

April 29th, 2014

By Alison D Goebel, Associate Director

This morning I had the pleasure of giving the keynote address at the Annual Meeting of the Springfield Center City Association.  In my presentation, I discussed how Springfield, Ohio is faring across a number of demographic indicators and how it compares to peer cities.

Click the image above to view the presentation.

GOPC’s research finds that medium- and small-sized cities in Ohio are comparable or even out-performing some of their larger legacy city peers.  However, we know that medium and small cities face significant challenges due to their smaller populations, tax bases, and markets and so much of the presentation included strategies smaller cities can implement, which have demonstrated success in larger legacy cities across the country.

Thank you again to Springfield  Center City Association for the invitation!