GOPC Co-Sponsors 2014 Candidate’s Forum

August 13th, 2014



GOPC is co-sponsoring the Ohio Association of Regional Council’s 2014 Candidates’ Forum next week on Friday, August 22 at the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center.

At the event, the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates have been invited to share their platforms related to transportation, infrastructure, and economic development to the state’s top political, business, and civic leaders.

A panel of national experts will also be discussing the role of transportation, infrastructure, economic development, and regionalism in preparing Ohio for long-term success.

Click here for more information and to register to attend the Forum.


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:

  • Sustainability Conserves Financial Resources: Cincinnati Zoo is the “greenest” zoo in the nation.  While environmental stewardship is a natural interest of the Zoo, their work is also motivated by economics.  The Zoo has experienced a net savings of over $2 million through infrastructure modernizations, such as using pervious pavement and roofs with plants.  Sitting on the top of one of Cincinnati’s many hills, the Zoo now annually diverts over 18 million gallons of water from the city’s wastewater sewers by reducing unnecessary consumption and capturing rain runoff for reuse on the grounds.
  • Transportation Options Appeal to All Sorts of Unexpected People: My husband joined me for an extra night in Cincinnati and we stayed across the river in Covington, KY, because all the rooms in downtown Cincinnati had been booked by country western fans attending a large concert at the Great American Ballpark. (An aside: on principle, we always try to keep our sales tax and bed tax dollars in Ohio, but couldn’t this particular night.)  We took a $1 trolley from Covington to Fountain Square in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.  Joining us on the Trolley were several middle aged couples who were clearly tourists and cowboy booted concertgoers who were running late for their show.  Other riders included a few workers who were getting off their restaurant or hotel shifts and a teenager.  Yes, our late night return trip to Kentucky had its share of inebriated yuppies (perhaps the epitome of ‘choice riders’ of public transit), but the Trolley also had more cowboy booted concertgoers whose farming pickup trucks were parked at our hotel.  Given transportation options, people will take them; public transportation is not an either/or choice.
  • Cross-Sector Collaboration Produces Quality Places that Attract Outside Investment: There is palpable excitement and energy around the major projects underway in the Queen City, namely the ongoing revitalization of the central business district around Fountain Square, and the rebirth of The Banks, Over the Rhine, and the Uptown neighborhoods.
Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Cincinnati Street Car rails. I speak as an individual, not as a GOPC staffer, when I say I am really excited about the Streetcar.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night.  Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

Free concert at Fountain Square on Saturday night. Several hundred people danced to the music while the bars and restaurants surrounding the Square were packed with locals and tourists enjoying the weekend.

I met one local leader who now runs a venture capital firm in Cincinnati—he was from Manhattan originally and had been smitten by the city 6 years ago.  Part of his current job is to attract other entrepreneurs and small business owners to locate and stay in Cincinnati.  It sounds like it’s working.

None of the projects underway in Cincinnati—physical or business development—could happen at the scale that they are without significant coordination and collaboration among the private, public, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.  Cincinnati is still a recovering legacy city and continues to face significant challenges.  But the vision the City has for itself and the steadfast way it is executing this vision demonstrates the outsized gains a community can make when all major institutions are “rowing in the same direction.”

Like many legacy cities, Cincinnati has faced and continues to face serious challenges.  However, my trip to Cincinnati convinced me that the initiatives underway are strengthening the city’s role in restoring prosperity to the region and are significantly contributing to the state’s overall economic future.


The Release of the Guidebook for Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities

May 6th, 2014

In the wake of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the long-term abandonment of older industrial cities and their regions, communities and neighborhoods have been increasingly burdened with vacant and abandoned properties. Organizations and municipalities are now more systematically addressing vacant residential properties. However, for years there was very little guidance for the redevelopment of commercial vacant properties, which are equally prevalent — especially throughout older industrial regions.

Commercial and residential vacancy at the county level for legacy cities. Data collected on the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013. Data source: US Postal Service. Data aggregates vacant and no-stat addresses.


Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center is releasing its new guidebook, Redeveloping Commercial Vacant Properties in Legacy Cities: A Guidebook to Linking Property Reuse and Economic Revitalization, which is the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive set of tools and strategies for redeveloping commercial vacant properties and business districts in legacy cities.

The guidebook, developed in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and with support from the Center for Community Progress, is designed as a “How To” manual for local leaders, identifying practices and policies that take advantage of the link between available commercial properties and needed economic re-growth strategies in legacy cities.

The tools and strategies provided can be used by local leaders and practitioners no matter where they are in the process of commercial property redevelopment, from data gathering and planning to real estate acquisition and redevelopment, and from tenant attraction and support to business district management.

The guidebook includes the following tools:

  • Guidance on planning & partnering for commercial revitalization
  • Methods for analyzing the market
  • Advice on matching market types & strategies for commercial revitalization
  • Legal tools for reclaiming commercial vacant properties
  • Funding sources for overcoming financial gaps
  • Menu of property reuse options
  • Ways to attract & retain business tenants
  • Methods and models for managing a commercial district
  • Strategies for building markets in legacy cities

While the tools, strategies, and policy recommendations within the guidebook are particularly relevant for legacy cities and their communities, they are also applicable to all cities and regions that seek to reuse commercial vacant properties with the purpose of enhancing community stability and economic development.

Click here for more information and to download the guidebook.


GOPC Applauds Transportation Reform in Pennsylvania

February 12th, 2014

The Greater Ohio Policy Center sends its belated congratulation to our smart growth colleague 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania for leading a diverse coalition of stakeholders in successfully advocating for a $2.3 billion state transportation package in Pennsylvania.

In late 2013, Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, signed a bill that was advanced by the Republican-controlled legislature.  Under this transportation funding bill, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation will:

  • Creates a multi-modal fund that grows from $30 to $144 million over a 5-year period, to which bicycle and pedestrian projects can apply for funding; and sets an annual minimum of $2 million of that fund to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  • new revenue streams for transit will generate $49 million to $60 million statewide in the current fiscal year and $476 million to $497 million in year five.
  • Funding for repairing deficient bridges and roads

This package is expected create 50,000 new jobs and preserve 12,000 existing jobs, according to the Governor’s office.

Funding for this work will come from the gradual elimination of the limit on the wholesale tax on gasoline, and increased fees on licenses, permits and traffic tickets.

Together, multi-modal advocates, road contractors, business leaders and policymakers made the economic case for this visionary, game-changing budget.  GOPC congratulates all advocates and applauds Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and Governor.

Legislative Update: GOPC to Give Testimony!

October 30th, 2013

In partnership with Ohio CDC Association and a coalition of supporters, the Greater Ohio Policy Center will be testifying at the Statehouse in support of the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program on November 5th.  The bills that would create this state tax credit program (SB 149 and HB 219) have begun to receive hearings, which allows for members of the General Assembly to ask questions about the proposed program.  GOPC is excited to be a leading proponent of this legislation.

As previous newsletters have described, the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistant Program would authorize tax credits for monetary contributions invested in catalytic economic and community development projects undertaken by local governments and nonprofit corporations.

This upcoming legislative hearing would not be possible without the dozens of organizations around the state that have facilitated introductions to legislators or have voiced their support of this bill to their Senator or Representative.  To see the complete range of supporting organizations, we proudly list them on the 1-pager we “leave-behind” with stakeholders and on this webpage.  If you are interested in adding your organization to this list, please email Alison D. Goebel. Your support has been and will continue to be invaluable in moving this legislation toward passage!

OSU Architecture Students Tackle Ohio Economy

June 22nd, 2011

Greater Ohio recently collaborated with a class of Architecture students at Ohio State (we wrote about this in our May newsletter).  The students examined the evolution of Ohio’s economy and considered how restructuring the economy to be more export-driven would impact Ohio’s built environment.  A few weeks ago, the students presented their final work to Greater Ohio and several faculty members.  Below are a few of our favorite examples of their work.

The following image depicts the evolution of Toledo’s manufacturing base from light bulbs to solar panels over the last 130 years and illustrates how modern economies often have their roots in our industrial past.

As shown in the following image, the students also recommend that in looking toward the future, we should not completely turn our backs on the past.  They identified the enormous potential that the vestiges of the industrial economy offer and suggest that old warehouses, for example, could be used as resources in our transition to modern economy.  We like the idea that what are often perceived as eyesores could, with some tweaking, become the venue for a return to economic prosperity.

There are still a lot of remaining questions about what a transition to a new economy means for places in Ohio, but we enjoyed tackling this interesting and important question with the OSU students and look forward to continued collaboration.




Building the Ohio Innovation Economy and the National Academy of Sciences

April 28th, 2011

On Monday, April 26th, Greater Ohio attended a symposium on Building the Ohio Innovation Economy.  Co-sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, Morganthaler—a venture capital firm—and Nortech—a northeast Ohio technology economic development group—the symposium was held in Cleveland and brought together regional, state, and federal leaders to discuss innovation.  Panelists from federal agencies, private sector companies, think tanks, universities, and philanthropic foundations offered a range of ideas of how to capture, support, and encourage the innovative work being done throughout Ohio, and especially in northeast Ohio.

Lavea Brachman, Greater Ohio Policy Center’s executive director, provided a state-policy perspective and made the case that the private sector will have to lead the state in innovation—especially in supporting industry clusters as a regional economic development strategy—but that state and local governments must provide the right conditions for the private sector.  In urging for governance reform and strategic investments that can help Ohio lead the next economy, Brachman argued that state policy could be pivotal in clearing the way for growth in interconnected businesses, and that the state should join with local and regional players to create a climate for innovative growth.

From L to R: John Fernandez, assistant secretary of the Economic Development Administration, a sub-agency of the US Department of Commerce; Lester Lefton, president of Kent State University; Lavea Brachman, executive director of Greater Ohio; Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation.

Brachman’s co-panelists pointed to the role the federal government and philanthropy in encouraging cluster development.  As they, and speakers on other panels affirmed, building an innovation economy requires a multi-pronged strategy that knits together and syncs federal, state, local, private and public programs and officials.   Jim Leftwich, the new director of Ohio Department of Development, publicly committed the state to developing and supporting Ohio’s innovation economy.

Greater Ohio is heartened by the idea streams brought together by the symposium and the number of stakeholders who are deeply invested in building Ohio’s innovation economy. We look forward to reform and creation of state policies that can further support this work.

Greater Ohio Releases State Budget Response & Local Government Restructuring Toolkit

April 14th, 2011

Greater Ohio applauds the proposed 2012-13 budget for taking a bold first step in challenging local governments to modernize, but cautions that Ohio needs more tools to realize the vision of more efficient local government and to ensure a return to prosperity for Ohio.

Recently the 2012-13 State Operating Budget was released in which bold proposals set into motion the streamlining and cost reduction of government operations, especially among local governments.   In a response released by Greater Ohio– The 2012-13 State Budget Response and Local Government Restructuring Toolkit– we agreed that the status quo is not a winning strategy and to move Ohio’s economy into the 21st century, increased efficiency and savings among local governments are needed.

However, to return Ohio to prosperity, budget cuts MUST be combined with strategic and targeted investments; cuts alone will not bring about a climate of prosperity.  Our response recommends legislative adjustments, new pieces of legislation, and the creation of some new state programs and policies to smooth the transition from the existing, antiquated structure of local governance to a modernized one.

We strongly recommend that the 2012-13 budget bill and subsequent legislation incorporate the following tools:

  1. Create a Governance Reform Commission to oversee the modernization of Ohio’s local governments by providing innovative leadership on governance reform, collecting data on local governments to help set efficiency standards, and offering technical assistance for local governments that are merging or initiating other new governance structures
  2. Create a framework for pooling resources regionally to pave the way for robust regional economic development by creating a regional revolving loan fund for needed infrastructure funding and economic development projects.
  3. Make permissive mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures and eliminate any legal and constitutional barriers. This could provide for a merger of city and county jurisdictions that results in consolidated service districts and governance, increased value for the taxpayer and a better business climate.
  4. Develop a protocol for collecting data on local governments’ costs and level of services, like the Cupp report for education, so that the Governance Reform Commission can create efficiency standards, evaluate the performance of local governments, and develop other indicators of performance.

In research conducted by GO and the Brookings Institution, we found:

  • 86 percent of states have fewer governments per square mile than Ohio
  • Ohio has 41.3 local governments per county and the national average is 27.9 local governments per county
  • Ohio has moved from 9th highest in local tax burden to 6th highest among the fifty states, while the state burden has stayed stable at 33rd
  • Ohio ranks 22nd nationally in instructional payroll spending, but its non-instructional payroll is 8th highest nationally (as a percentage of personal income)

It is clear that dramatic measures are needed to make Ohio average.  Reducing and eliminating duplication in services will save money and free up resources Ohio can use to make strategic investments in assets to grow our economy.  Fixing congested freeway interchanges, seeding venture capital investments or supporting anchor institutions have significant multiplier effects that will allow Ohio to realize the Governor’s vision of competing anywhere in the world.  The underlying structure of local government in Ohio must change, and the State should drive this change.

To see our full analysis and a longer menu of policy tools that can be used to foster the necessary restructuring of local government, please see our 2012-13 State Budget Analysis and Local Government Restructuring Toolkit.


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.

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.