Columbus 2050

March 23rd, 2011

In 39 years, will you love to live in Columbus?

The Columbus chapter of the Urban Land Institute along with many central Ohio partners has launched a visioning and long-term planning initiative called Columbus 2050.  Throughout the process, ULI will ask central Ohio residents what they would like to see happen in the community over the next 39 years.  Several events with local experts are also scheduled for the coming year to inform the broader conversation.  In the end, this long-term effort will create plans for Columbus that reflect the needs and desires of the community and are sensitive to global and regional economic and demographic trends.  We applaud the effort to proactively plan for the Columbus region’s future.  See the video below where local stakeholders, including Greater Ohio’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, discuss the initiative.

The State of the State

March 15th, 2011

By Gene Krebs.

Like many Buckeyes, I am waiting for the budget to be released later today.  In the meantime, many have been poring over the recent State of the State speech by Governor Kasich and looking for clues.  I was pleased to see that the speech touched on many smart growth principles.

Some of the themes from the speech aligned with what we have been hammering on for seven long years.  The main one is that our metropolitan regions are central to restoring Ohio.  Governor Kasich emphasized this by drawing attention to the dramatic population loss of many of Ohio’s major cities.  “Cleveland and Youngstown have lost 50 percent of their population since 1950. Fifty percent of the population of Cleveland and Youngstown gone.  And I will take your breath away by telling you that the city where the north meets the south, Cincinnati, has lost 40 percent of its population since 1950.”  This acknowledgment of our shrinkage is an important first step to being able to diagnose and treat the problems we are facing.  This focus on cities also affirms Greater Ohio’s agenda.  I am glad to hear that cities and metros are getting the attention they deserve.

The State of the State speech also reflected a shift in attitude towards how we grow.  What does it all mean?  This could be an indicator of massive changes in how we govern, how we are organized, and how we spend.  These changes are likely coming as the state attempts to deal with our unprecedented budget shortfall.

It was also positive to hear that Governor Kasich supports governance reform and shared services.  As he said in his speech, “We are going to reform government, okay? It’s going to happen. And I’m — I’m asking you all to keep an open mind about the possibilities of reform because you can’t keep doing the same thing in this state and avoiding the decisions that need to be made that have been put off for political reasons, frankly.”   Change certainly is needed for many reasons.  Ohio’s antiquated form of government was designed for the horse and buggy economy, not the global economy.  We need to reform in order to compete.

However, we hope that the change represents not just cuts in our spending, but also the right types of investments in our cities and metros as well.  Ohio needs to face the fact that cutting taxes and spending alone will not be the silver bullet.  And we have to acknowledge that our population loss is not due solely to high taxes.  We need to invest in order to build the kinds of quality places that attract businesses and skilled workers.  For further proof of this, see this letter from a Michigan CEO who wants to relocate out of Michigan not due to taxes or regulations, but because the sprawl endemic to his area creates undesirable places where talented, educated workers prefer not to live.

All in all, there were many positive signs, but there is a lot of work ahead of us, and the devil is in the details.  We look forward to seeing the budget later today in order to figure out the Governor’s proposed path of action.  Stay tuned for more of Greater Ohio’s analysis.

Building a Stronger Future: Greater Ohio Speaks to the Columbus Chapter of the American Institute of Architects

February 18th, 2011

On Tuesday evening Greater Ohio attended the monthly Columbus chapter meeting of the American Institute of Architects.  We spoke to over sixty architects—including private and public sector architects, landscape designers, and planners—about the Restoring Prosperity Initiative and how lessons learned from Europe can help Ohio and its metros compete in the next economy.  We shared with the AIA some grim statistics, including declining population numbers in our urban cores, large numbers of vacant and abandoned properties throughout the state, and numerous layers of local government. But we concluded our presentation with firm evidence that Ohio can compete in the next economy.  Ohio has incredible assets, such as “eds and meds” anchor institutions, and has policies, like Land Bank legislation which assists local communities in controlling and repurposing vacant and abandoned property.

Ann Pendleton-Jullian of Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture followed Greater Ohio’s presentation and discussed—using studio projects from graduate seminars—the strengths inherent to Ohio’s physical and cultural landscape.  Pendleton-Jullian suggested Ohio’s location “in the middle” of the country and in the middle of the Midwest ideally positions Ohio to be central in next economy, which she sees as creative and innovative.  Pendleton-Jullian also pointed to Ohio’s incredible number of colleges and universities and the roles they will play in educating for the creative economy.  In further developing the mission of the state’s land-grant institutions as serving the state, Ohio is well positioned to develop an “educational ecosystem” which would greatly complement many of the policies for which Greater Ohio is advocating.

Greater Ohio looks forward to public forums like these because it gives us an opportunity to educate Ohioans about our mission and receive feedback on our research and policy recommendations.  We especially enjoy speaking events where dialogues develop between our work and other exciting programs which are also striving to grow Ohio’s economy and improve Ohioans’ quality of life.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like us to come speak to your organization.

The Buzz about Cities

February 16th, 2011

Edward Glaeser’s new book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, has been generating a lot of buzz.

  • Last week New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks wrote an interesting article about The Splendor of Cities where he discusses the role that cities play in disseminating new ideas.  His argument stems from ideas brought forth in Glaeser’s new book.  Cities prosper due to their ability to offer face to face communication, which surprisingly comes to matter even more in the age of the internet.  The article explains that “Cities magnify people’s strengths […] because ideas spread more easily in dense environments. If you want to compete in a global marketplace it really helps to be near a downtown.”
  • On Monday Glaeser himself wrote a guest entry on the Freakonomics blog on the New York Times website.  His article, entitled To Get America Growing Again, It’s Time to Unleash Our Cities, offers the message that the key to economic development can be found in cities.  Glaeser claims that the secret to China’s success is its rapid urbanization, but luckily America is just as capable of investing in its cities too.

  • Glaeser was also recently interviewed by NPR to discuss the ways in which cities are actually greener and healthier than the rest of the country.  In the interview he describes what cities need to do in order to successfully adapt and evolve in order to remain competitive.
  • Glaeser even discussed the need to support cities by curtailing many of our country’s anti-urban policies while appearing as Monday’s guest on The Daily Show.

Greater Ohio is pleased to see this conversation spreading across the country.  As stated in our report, Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy, Greater Ohio recognizes that Ohio’s multiple metropolitan areas – fully encompassing urban, suburban and rural places – house the resources and drivers of prosperity necessary to lead the state of Ohio into the next economy.  But these resources and prosperity drivers need to be leveraged.

If you want to support Greater Ohio’s work to leverage Ohio’s metropolitan assets with improved state policies, please sign up to become a Greater Ohio Supporter, and learn what you can do to help.

Spreading the Restoring Prosperity Message

February 3rd, 2011

In recent weeks, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s Executive Director Lavea Brachman has been a panelist or participant at various economic development-related conferences throughout Ohio.

At “Sustainable Hamilton County: Reinventing Our Communities,” Brachman focused on governance reform as an economic growth tool. Hamilton County has 88 local governments compared with the Ohio average of 41.3 and the national average of 27.9, but the region is at the forefront of innovation.  Brachman cited the Government Cooperation and Efficiency project in 2007, which helped cities, villages and townships save $1.5 million the first year, and Green County Schools’ shared-services program.

Panelists at “Regional Prosperity for Northeast Ohio: Growing Together,” a public forum at Cleveland State University, discussed how the communities of Northeastern Ohio can come together to create an environment for economic prosperity and the connections between job growth, economic development and government collaboration.

Brachman shared highlights of Greater Ohio’s report, Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy, and their applications for leveraging brownfields and other assets to grow sustainably at the “2011 Ohio Brownfield Conference” sponsored by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Finally, on Jan. 26, Brachman participated in “The City in 2050: Creating Blueprints for Change in Columbus,” sponsored by the Urban Land Institute Columbus, in partnership with the City of Columbus, Franklin County, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture. The kick-off event is the first of a series exploring how residents will live, work and play in Columbus in 2050.

For more information about Greater Ohio’s activities, click here to view additional media clips.

Policy Implications from the Building Prosperity in Greater Akron Forum

January 25th, 2011

On Tuesday January 18, 2011, Greater Ohio Policy Center co-hosted the Building Prosperity to Greater Akron Forum.  Over two hundred people attended this event and helped frame new approaches to ensure a strong future for the Akron Metro Region by preparing for the next economy.  The Akron Beacon Journal article from the event quoted Greater Ohio Policy Center’s executive director Lavea Brachman saying, ”We want to draw attention to great attributes and challenges of our cities and metropolitan areas […] What better place to do that than in Akron.”

Keynote speaker Paul Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation, discussed the innovative use of metrics to guide policy decisions and invest in city issues.  Other speakers included Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, Congresswoman Betty Sutton, Carol Coletta of CEOs for Cities, Dr. Frank Douglas of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, Ross DeVol of the Milken Institute and Ned Hill of Cleveland State University.  For a complete list of speakers, please see the agenda.

Some of the key issues that were arose include the central importance of education and workforce development, the need for product development and jobs to attract residents to the Akron metro region, continued investment in Akron’s assets and areas of expertise (such as corrosion prevention), increased regional partnerships, the key role of Quality of Place as a business proposition, and better cooperation between the state and the Greater Akron area.

Some radical proposals were debated, such as: reduce the number of counties in the state by setting a minimum population of 750,000; review the cost of the judicial system; and return the oversight of welfare programs to the state instead of counties.


But we want to hear what you think!  In your opinion, what is the most important issue?  What are key policies that need to be added or changed in order to help build prosperity in Akron?  What best practices need replication and support?  What state policy barriers do you face that need to be resolved?   As our work progresses, we want to include your thoughts and perspectives.  Thank you for sharing your ideas and working together to build prosperity.

Livable Cities Report by The Economist

December 16th, 2010

By Gene Krebs.

I recently discovered a very interesting report by the British publication The Economist entitled “Livable Cities: Challenges and Opportunities for Policymakers”.  It examines what makes a city livable through an international lens.

It is interesting to read since it is written from a different perspective than most American publications.  For example, the whole structure of the article varies from the typical Brookings Institution report.  Additionally, there are more than one or two odd spellings.

Among the people interviewed for this long piece is Gerald Frug, famous to lawyers for his textbook on local government law (which sits on my non-lawyer bookshelf).

Please share your comments on this report and let us know what you think.

Visiting Springfield, Ohio

November 23rd, 2010

By Dawn Larzelere.

I recently visited Springfield and made presentations to the Community Leadership Academy and representatives of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.  During my research leading up to the presentations, I was pleased to see how Springfield and Clark County have capitalized on so many of their prosperity driving assets that we define in our Restoring Prosperity report.

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Chamber’s groundbreaking for a new downtown park called National Road Commons.   The park, which has been in the works for several years, will eventually span down to Buck Creek and showcases how a community can seize on natural amenities and quality of life attractions to make its urban core stronger.  It is hoped the park will spark additional development including additional restaurants and office and retail space.  Work is expected to be completed by the next summer, in hopes of a formal dedication on July 4.

My presentation from the day can be found on slideshare if you are interested.

Why are our cities shrinking?

November 18th, 2010

The Urbanophile posted an interesting blog this week asking “Are People Really Fleeing Shrinking Cities?”.  By looking at data of both out-migration and in-migration, the finding is that out-migration rates in rust belt cities are actually lower than average out-migration rates for cities across the United States.  This means that people are not leaving Shrinking Cities in droves, which is often the vision conjured by the concept of “Shrinking Cities”.

The reason that these cities are shrinking is that they have an even lower in-migration rate (extremely low compared to other cities across the country).  Therefore, while the populations are undoubtedly shrinking, it’s not a result of a mass exodus from rust belt cities, but rather a result of very low numbers of new people moving in.  See the original blog post for more data and graphs.

This finding is very important for thinking about the needs and policy implications for these cities.  Clearly much still needs to be investigated and tested to figure out the right steps forward, but having an accurate understanding of the situation is a crucial starting point.

Trumbull County Forms Land Bank

November 11th, 2010

Congratulations to leaders in Trumbull County who this week voted to approve the formation of a county land bank. This announcement marks the third county land bank formed in Ohio, following both Cuyahoga County and Lucas County.  Trumbull county plans to initially use the land bank to assist in the county’s vacant side lot program, which allows residents to purchase vacant land next to their property.  They also hope to work with contractors to help rehabilitate homes in the land bank and place them back up for sale to get them back on the tax rolls. To read more please check out an article from the Warren Tribune Chronicle