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!

Progress continues on advancing proposed Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program

November 13th, 2013

On November 12, 2013 the Greater Ohio Policy Center offered proponent testimony to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program (NIAP)Senate Bill 149 proposes to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses or corporations that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.  Providing testimony in partnership with coalition member, the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC and OCDCA explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs.

After GOPC and OCDCA testified, a representative from PNC Bank offered proponent testimony in support of the bill.  PNC has been a leading voice for the creation of this program in Ohio and has many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Providing the private sector—investor—perspective, Stephanie Cipriani, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Community Development Banking, described a range of projects PNC has invested in.  These projects include a housing development and a workforce and early education center.

Last, a nonprofit leader from Asbury Park, New Jersey described the transformation of a neighborhood in Asbury Park which was decimated by race riots and urban renewal projects in the 1970s.  With the help of New Jersey’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, Paul McEvily and Interfaith Neighbors, Inc. have led the revitalization of one of New Jersey’s more disinvested neighborhoods.  McEvily’s testimony included a series of pictures of this neighborhood transformation and the impact of the private-public partnership created through New Jersey’s program, which prompted the Committee Chairman to jokingly propose a field trip to Asbury Park!

The proposed NIAP program still has at least one more hearing in the Senate and at least two more in the House before it can be voted upon by either the full House or Senate.  However, yesterday’s proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program.  Be sure to follow our twitter feed, blog, and newsletters to learn when these hearings will be scheduled.

For background information on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please visit our webpage.

Help Protect Sustainable Communities Funding!

April 16th, 2012

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative has helped communities in Ohio create jobs, become more economically viable and create housing and transportation options.

Now HUD needs our help protecting the Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Senate is currently drafting a budget for fiscal year 2013, and among their decisions will be how to fund HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. Your voice can help make sure this agency continues to help individuals and communities in the coming year.

Senator Brown sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will make this important decision by Tuesday, April 17. By speaking out today, you can help the Senator and the Committee to understand how their funding decisions will impact your neighborhood, your town or even the country.

Speak out!

Use the text below on Senator Brown’s contact page: http://www.brown.senate.gov/contact

Message Topic:


Email Body:

Please support funding for HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative in FY 2013

Dear Senator,

I’m writing to urge you to support the Sustainable Communities Initiative at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the FY 2013 appropriations process. Specifically, I encourage you to restore funding for the Sustainable Communities Initiative.

I strongly support the Sustainable Communities Initiative and its work as part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership helps communities in Brown develop in ways that lead to long-term prosperity, and as our state emerges from the economic recession, these investments are more important than ever.

HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative incentivizes towns and cities to develop comprehensive housing and transportation plans. These plans support economically competitive development, give people transportation options and helps communities better leverage federal and private sector investments.

Again, I strongly support the Sustainable Communities Initiative and ask you to support continued funding in FY2013.

[[First_Name]] [[Last_Name]]
[[Street_Address]] [[Street_Address2]]
[[City]], [[State]] [[Zip]]

Mortgage Services Settlement Strong First Step to Rebuilding Ohio Communities

February 9th, 2012

Attorney General Mike DeWine joined 48 other State Attorneys General in announcing a settlement of $25 billion with the nation’s five largest mortgage lenders and servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices, such as  robo-signing.  DeWine estimates $335 million will come to Ohio.

Greater Ohio Policy Center applauds the Attorney General’s decision to develop a $75 million matching-grant program for abandoned and vacant property demolition.  This will be a significant tool in the face of Ohio’s estimated 100,000+ blighted and problem properties.

Demolition is a critical first step, but Ohio’s cities, towns and villages must be armed with techniques and strategies that will generate redevelopment opportunities, create healthy properties, and rebuild our neighborhoods.

On April 4th and 5th, Greater Ohio will be holding Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute: Transforming Problem Properties into Opportunity,  This two-day interactive workshop will offer hands-on techniques and strategies for addressing vacant and abandoned property development challenges and generating redevelopment opportunities.

Featuring local practitioners, financial institutions, and state and national redevelopment experts, the sessions will include the following. (The full agenda is here.)

  • property acquisition tools
  • land banks
  • neighborhood stabilization tactics
  • revitalization strategies
  • property information systems 
  • urban redevelopment successes

This Institute will also seek input from workshop participants into policy reforms that will align policies with local community development needs, and arm local leaders with new tools for redevelopment.

With Ohio’s cities and towns at a crisis point, the Institute’s goals—training and education, coalition-building and policy advancement—are vital to productively reshape Ohio’s communities.

This Institute is part of larger multi-year Initiative Greater Ohio is leading—Healthy Properties, Rebuilding Communities—that is designed to combat vacant and abandoned properties and foster community redevelopment.

For more information on the Healthy Properties Initiative or to register for the Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute, please visit our website.

Horse and Buggy Tax Structure Holding Ohio Back

May 24th, 2011

Do you shop where you live?

It turns out that most Ohioans do a fair amount of shopping away from their home county.  A recent study completed by Greater Ohio, shows that 70 percent of counties did not capture the amount of sales tax revenue that that would be expected if the residents of the county did all their shopping in that same county.

Why does this matter?  It demonstrates that shopping patterns are regional, but our county-based sales tax structure is not.  This system rewards a minority of counties while hamstringing the majority, which creates unbalanced service provision and tax rates across the region, contributes to sprawl by incenting the development of new retail centers on greenfields, and priorities individual counties over capitalizing on regional strengths.

Take the Columbus area as an example.  The graph below shows how sales tax revenue capture changed in Franklin and Delaware counties with the introduction of Polaris.

A closer look at the broader region shows that despite the increase in spending in Delaware County between 1992 and 2009, the total change in spending for the region changed only slightly from $129 to $138 per capita, especially relative to increases in household income for the region during that time.

This arrangement creates a situation where counties with big, new malls thrive while most other places struggle.  All the while, however, the amount of retail spending within the broader region itself remains virtually the same.  In other words, this dynamic of shopping destinations moving around the region does not increase the state’s prosperity. Instead it just redistributes spending from one place to another and leaves places without major retail destinations without many options other than to raise taxes or cut services.

To modernize the taxation system to reflect the regional way we live and shop today, Greater Ohio is currently advocating for:

  • Legislation that makes regional revenue pooling permissive
  • Legislation that makes permissive mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures and eliminates legal and constitutional barriers to new structures of government.
  • Creation of a Governance Reform Commission to oversee and provide technical assistance to Ohio’s local governments as they adapt to the 21st century

The complete study can be found here.


Gene Krebs Testimony for House Bill 153

May 3rd, 2011

Every two years the state of Ohio develops a new budget to fund all state activities and many local activities through a variety of subsidies.  In fact the state only keeps 15% of the tax money that flows through their treasury and sends the remaining 85% back to the local governments.  For seventy years the state has been distributing money to local governments without sufficient consideration for cost efficiencies.

Greater Ohio has recently testified in the House Finance Committee that Ohio needs better data to understand how to achieve these cost efficiencies .  Better data will be the key in transforming Ohio’s communities to become more competitive in the global economy.  Currently Ohio’s fractured and duplicative layers of government undercut Ohio’s economic competitiveness, and the most important tool to reversing these damaging trends is the accumulation and distribution of better data.  In order for each taxpayer to get the best best bang for their buck, better data is needed to know where and how cut, merge, consolidate or share.

For more information on this topic, read Gene Krebs’ complete testimony.  If you’re not interested already, here’s a direct quote from Gene’s testimony, “I can give more data about Kate Middleton’s dress than I can about most Ohio government, state and local.”

Sustainable Planning for the Dayton Region

April 7th, 2011

Check out this amazing video from the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.

This video explains what sustainable growth is and the importance of sustainable planning in determining the future economic competitiveness for Dayton and its surrounding villages and townships.  MVRPC makes the case that the cost of building new infrastructure on the urban fringe often exceeds the economic contributions new commercial and residential developments bring to the region, and instead Miami Valley’s future health depends on compact, walkable neighborhoods, and reused pre-existing commercial and manufacturing sites.

MVRPC is implementing a new initiative, “Going Places,”  that takes into account better land use, varied housing choices, and a range of transportation options—all which will help the Dayton metro and Miami Valley region successfully compete in the global marketplace.

Making long-term investments in our Cities and Metro Regions, While Balancing the Budget

March 29th, 2011

By Lavea Brachman.

The 2010 census data for Ohio showing many of Ohio’s cities shrinking further over the last decade, leaving additional vacant properties in their wake, as well as declining revenues and increasing legacy costs, was disheartening, although not surprising.  Juxtapose these trends with the Kasich Administration’s budget proposal, as local governments grapple with the impact of the proposed cuts on their day-to-day operations, and there is reason to be concerned about how these cities and their metropolitan areas – which are the state’s economic drivers — will retain a toehold in the next economy.

Looking at European cities – resulting from Greater Ohio’s on-going partnership with the German Marshall Fund – to see what they have done to fortify their cities as economic engines, we are reminded of the need for policymakers to take a longer view. Ohio WILL emerge from this fiscal crisis, and when we do, we want to make sure we have preserved our assets and made critical long-term investments.  Against tremendous odds, the cities of Manchester, England and Leipzig, Germany have begun to prosper, due to many innovative local practices and to strong leadership (to be discussed in a future blog). But one lesson stands out from both cities which is the importance of treating public money as investments and not as subsidies.

Taking this approach, these cities – in partnership with their state and federal government equivalents — systematically identified areas (both geographic and business sectors) where increased investment could produce the greatest quantitative and qualitative returns over the long-term.  For instance, Leipzig targeted select neighborhoods, using federal-state funding programs to support demolition and rehabilitation in distressed neighborhoods, coupled with other rebuilding programs.  Manchester used innovative public-private partnership vehicles to target and invested in regeneration areas (such as an area called New East Manchester).  Also Manchester aspires to be Britain’s center for digital and related created industries, so it is promoting cluster development with an incubator of entrepreneurial media firms.  Certainly, there are promising stateside examples of making strategic investments for the long-term, even in the most dire of circumstances.

Here in Ohio, we have tremendous institutional assets that we must leverage with smart investments, at the same time that we undertake the necessary cost-cutting measures, such as shared services and consolidation.  Even in this state of fiscal and economic crisis, we need to take a step back and encourage targeted, strategic investments — in market-ready neighborhoods and leveraging our many and vaunted “anchor” institutions (e.g. universities, medical centers).  Without these investments, our metropolitan regions will be less and less capable of creating the climate that leads to business growth, innovation or produce the exports needed to be part of the next economy.