Positive Trends for Ohio’s Communities, but Recovery Remains Fragile

October 13th, 2016

GOPC Opinion Piece
October 12, 2016

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that household income increased and poverty decreased for most Americans in 2015. Census estimates show that these trends held true in most of Ohio as well. This is great news. Without a doubt, gains for Ohioans will help strengthen the economy in our state and local communities.

Yet these encouraging findings must not distract us from the continuing challenges facing Ohio, especially its small and mid-sized cities. Challenges like the shift away from manufacturing, population decline, and concentrated poverty existed long before the Recession but became even more difficult because of it. Creativity and strategic risk-taking by local leaders has resulted in rebounding downtowns, safer neighborhoods, and other reasons for optimism, but past and present Census data strongly suggest that recovery has been fragile and that another downturn could easily undo recent progress.

State and federal lawmakers should support policy solutions that are sensitive to the particular needs of small and mid-sized cities and their regions, which are still transitioning to a new post-industrial economy. Ohio’s long-term prosperity depends on making sure that all of its communities are able to thrive. While the news from the Census Bureau should be celebrated, there is more to be done to guarantee that these positive trends hold steady in the face of future economic dips.

A Great Year and a Heartfelt Farewell to Greater Ohio Policy Center

June 6th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner

At the beginning of April last year I embarked on a journey with GOPC, as Manager of Government Affairs, that would challenge me to think outside the box and learn about policies that would address issues communities face on a day-to-day basis. From foreclosure to abandoned gas stations, I never knew and truly understood the rippling effect they had on the overall health of a neighborhood and impact on business growth. In a little over a year’s time I have had the privilege to see a significant amount of development of economic development and revitalization policy within the Ohio Legislature. I have come to know numerous legislators who are just as passionate as GOPC in bringing Ohio communities back to pre-great recession levels, and I cannot wait to see the progress that is made over the next year. Unfortunately, the upcoming work that GOPC and the State accomplish together must be made from afar as I have accepted a position that is closer to my family in northeast Ohio. Nevertheless, I will most certainly cherish the relationships I’ve made and carry the lessons I’ve learned about community revitalization and economic development with me wherever my family and I go in Ohio and beyond.

You may have already observed the many legislative developments this month after browsing our May Legislative Update, and in that you might have noticed that the foreclosure reform bill (HB 463) made its way across the legislative “finish line” just before the House and Senate made a much-deserved return to their home districts for the Summer Recess. Like any bill, HB 463 was no easy task and required a lot of negotiation, compromise, and of course patience. A little over a year ago when I began working with GOPC I was invited to serve, per the Ohio State Bar Association, as one of the voices that would help craft legislation aimed at fixing Ohio’s deeply flawed foreclosure policy. Learning about foreclosure was quite the learning process, but as a former legislative staffer, lobbyist, and appointed local government official, I personally believe that Ohio has a lot of serious progress to be proud of.

My first job I served as a Legislative Aide and Clerk of the House Ways and Means Committee for the Ohio House of Representatives, and I have to admit I never thought I would learn so much about tax policy nor did I ever anticipate becoming so passionate about the subject. My experience at GOPC has been similar with fast-track foreclosure, but it is also the case for the remediation of brownfields. When the Clean Ohio Fund was implemented, brownfield cleanup was funded by the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) making our state a leader in turning these unusable eyesores into functioning pieces of communities. The return of jobs and revenue goes unmatched by other remediation programs offered by the State today, and although CORF is no longer implemented I believe Ohio is making its way back to focusing on brownfields with the recent development of the Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Program. There is so much opportunity when it comes to brownfield cleanup and after working on this particular subject for a little over a year I have learned that job creation, attracting/retaining the millennial workforce, and revitalizing communities are all interconnected with brownfields. GOPC’s unique place-based perspective seamlessly ties these various elements together in a way that I believe will help keep the Legislature moving in the right direction in brownfields cleanup.

Overall, my experience at GOPC has been something I will never forget. GOPC has tremendous leadership and staff, who are passionate about their cause and I thank them for their dedication to revitalizing communities and creating a stronger Ohio. I look forward to seeing GOPC’s research play an instrumental role in educating community leaders and seeing those efforts applied in the policy making process. Best of luck to GOPC and thank you for everything!!!


GOPC’s 2015 Accomplishments & A Look Ahead

December 15th, 2015

Dec Newsletter Photo

Pictured from left: Alison Goebel, Lindsey Gardiner, Lavea Brachman, Meg Montgomery, Torey Hollingsworth, Sheldon Johnson, and Alex Highley.

2015 has been an eventful year around Ohio and has been filled with achievement and promise for GOPC. As a leader in championing revitalization and sustainable growth, GOPC has accomplished a lot in the past year, including:

Led Dialogue on Revitalization and Sustainable Regrowth in Ohio

  • Summit on Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economiesthat brought together national experts, state policymakers, and local leaders to recognize outstanding leadership and practices in revitalizing Ohio’s cities and to discuss new strategies to sharpen the state’s economic edge.
  • Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets to further GOPC’s effort to connect small business growth to areas with commercial vacant properties. The Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN and ProsperUS in Detroit, MI presented their successful models for property reuse.
  • Participated in over 15 events as speakers, panelists, or moderators

Successfully Influenced State Policy

  • Advanced Two Reforms for a Diversified Transportation System. GOPC is working with leading planning organizations—as well as other regional leaders—to develop and advance policies to support additional funding for public transit systems and multi-modal options throughout the state, as well as investment in existing infrastructure.
  • Helped Create Service Stations Cleanup Fund Program. GOPC offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund. GOPC supported the creation of this program because it leverages initial investment for future economic development.

Published Original Research

  • Assessed Current State of Land Banking in Ohio. In May, GOPC released Taking Stock of Ohio County Land Banks: Current Practices and Promising Strategies , which analyzes how land banks operate in the larger context of community revitalization. The report highlights promising county land bank programs that have the potential to greatly contribute to sustainable economic and community redevelopment throughout Ohio.
  • Identified Challenges and Initial Solutions for Water & Sewer Infrastructure Improvements. With support from the Ohio Water Development Authority, GOPC recently released an Assessment of Needs for redeveloping sewer and water infrastructure to identify innovative financing options to assist communities with infrastructure modernization. GOPC is working with financing experts and MORPC and will release its Phase II recommendations in late 2016.
  • Financing in Opportunity Neighborhoods Report. This report analyzes neighborhoods in Ohio that are showing signs of stability but struggle to attract traditional financing because of credit gaps and other challenges. In this report, GOPC outlines potential interventions and innovative financing tools and strategies that can stabilize the housing market in these neighborhoods.

Provided Education and Strategic Assistance to Ohio’s Communities

  • Strategic Advice on the Formation of a Youngstown Center City Organization. GOPC is working the Wean Foundation and local partners to develop a process for creating a Youngstown Center City Organization. The YCCO will catalyze and coordinate economic development and community investment in Youngstown’s Central Business District and adjacent areas.
  • Commercial Vacant Property Redevelopment Webinars. GOPC partnered with the Ohio CDC Association to present four webinars as a “how to” for local leaders of legacy cities faced with commercial vacancies. Topics for the webinars included redevelopment planning, identifying successful tools and strategies, and overcoming financial gaps.
  • Continued Outreach to Practitioners and Leaders in Ohio’s Cities.  GOPC met regularly with leaders throughout the state around needed revitalization policies and policy reforms that will assist with neighborhood regeneration and sustainable redevelopment.

Coming in 2016…

In 2016, GOPC will continue working to ensure Ohio has robust, effective policies and practices that create revitalized communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and preserve Ohio’s green space by reducing sprawl. With partners from around the state and nation, GOPC will continue to investigate creative financing approaches to infrastructure improvements and neighborhood revitalization; advocate for a diversified transportation system, and support communities as they invest in themselves and their futures.

We believe GOPC offers strong leadership and unique skills to address critical issues and to ensure a prosperous future for the people of Ohio. And others agree; check out the New Video illustrating GOPC’s role in vital areas!

GOPC is Hiring

August 17th, 2015

The Greater Ohio Policy Center is seeking qualified candidates for the new position of Project Associate, Research and Communications.  GOPC will accept applications for this junior-level position until the position is filled.

For more details about the position and required qualifications, please visit our Job Opportunities page.

Donate to GOPC on May 12 and boost your dollars!

May 7th, 2015

The Big Give is Coming to Central Ohio!

For 24 hours, beginning Tuesday May 12, at 10:00 a.m., the Columbus Foundation will increase your online donation of $20 or more made to the Greater Ohio Policy Center!

Starting at 10am on May 12th and ending at 10am on May 13th, the Columbus Foundation is matching on a pro rata basis all donations made to nonprofits and charities in central Ohio.  The pool is $1.3 million and the Greater Ohio Policy Center is an eligible recipient!

Everyday GOPC works with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors to advance policies and programs that support the redevelopment of existing communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and protect the countryside and Ohio’s natural resources.

Support from donors like you help fund the work we do; won’t you join us in championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio?

Best of all, you don’t even have to live in central Ohio to participate in the Big Give!

How it Works

Step 1: Beginning at 10 a.m. on May 12, visit http://columbusfoundation.org/ and click on the Big Give banner.

Step 2: Search for Greater Ohio Policy Center. Click the Give Now button. 100% of your donation will go to GOPC.

Step 3: Enter your credit card information to complete your donation of $20 or more. There is no maximum amount.

The Big Give ends at 10 a.m. on May 13. Please make a gift during this 24 hour period—this is a rare opportunity to make your dollar go even further!

If you have any questions, please call the GOPC office and we can help: 614-224-0187.

Brachman Presents Ways to Leverage the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns & Metros

January 27th, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern

Last Thursday, January 22, GOPC’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman presented at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis. During the presentation, “Shining Cities on a Hill or Lights Under a Bushel? Realizing the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns and Metros,” Lavea discussed ways for regenerating prosperity in Ohio’s cities, towns and metros and leveraging the state’s assets to fulfill our cities’ potential.

Research on city trajectories has indicated little population growth and subsequent decreases in economic standing in our legacy cities. By looking at other locations that have successfully revitalized, such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Greater Ohio has been learning ways to improve these cities’ potential.

In order to return prosperity to these cities, a positive transformation needs to take place–introducing these metropolises to the new economy. By physically rebuilding these areas and introducing new uses to vacant properties, there will be growth and regeneration of the success these communities have previously experienced. The introduction or connection of economic engines, such as universities and hospitals, is also vital to the growth of these cities, as well as the exploration of other potential engines capable of retaining people and businesses. Thinking regionally is also a main goal in restoring these areas.

It is apparent that policies need to include a more intentional urban agenda for the restoration of Ohio’s cities as the economic engines of the state. Encouraging the cities to work interdependently is a challenging, yet hopeful prospect for Ohio.

Parking Smartly and Alternative Uses for Metered Parking Spaces

September 8th, 2011

Car parking and specifically, parking spaces, have been getting a fair bit of attention lately in Ohio and beyond.  San Francisco recently launched “SFPark” a web-based system that enables smartphone users to find available parking in real time.  The sensors that provide information on open and filled spots are also helping the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to determine high-use and underused areas.  With this information, SFMTA can adjust meter pricing to incentive drivers to utilize (cheaper) spots away from the high-use streets.  Although the initial investments for this pilot project have been expensive (a $19.8 million grant from US Department of Transportation), the long term savings of improved traffic flow will result in reduced gas consumption and emissions from circling cars, and a likely increased use in public transit to high-use, high priced, areas.  Most importantly, this system allows San Francisco to more effectively use the resources they have already, and reduces the need to build more parking in the urban core—an aggregated cost that likely would be much higher than the price of the pilot.

Closer to home, cities throughout Ohio will be participating in PARK(ing) Day on Friday September 16th.  PARK(ing) Day is a worldwide event where artists and citizens use metered parking spaces for temporary public art spaces.  The event uses DIY art installations to “call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.”  Whereas SFPark works to make the existing parking infrastructure more efficient, PARK(ing) Day raises questions about the infrastructure itself and suggests that public space can be used for more than just car parking.  Here in Greater Ohio’s homebase, Columbus, high school and college art students can register their PARK(ing) Day spot for a public art competition.

Revitalizing our cities and using land in intelligent and economically competitive ways means that parking will always be part of the conversation. 

The original PARK, a public art installation set up for two hours at a San Francisco parking meter in 2005.  Photo courtesy of Rebar Art and Design Studio.

The S.C.O.R.E. Report

December 20th, 2010

By Gene Krebs.

Ohio is a data desert.  Recently an important tool to correct that was introduced.

Secretary of State Brunner has been working for some time on a data compilation for citizens available on a single web site, called S.C.O.R.E..

The right and the left of the political spectrum agree on the need for better transparency and accountability.  To prove the right is also involved, look at HB 420 of the 127th GA by Brinkman.  We testified in support of the bill and had an amendment incorporated requiring the Administration to be more transparent with data.  They ignored this aspect of the law, and refused to prepare the required reports.

Better data is needed for better transparency.  The SCORE report takes data from domain of the ruling elite and places it at the disposal of Bobby and Betty Buckeye.  Previously only members of the General Assembly or the Administration had regular access to this type of data; starting now all citizens can access it.

This is also good for business, as business responds to certainty, and this data gives businesses looking at Ohio fewer blind spots.

This is a good thing for Ohio.

Has Mayor Coleman Been Dealt a Good Hand?

December 13th, 2010

By Gene Krebs.

I just read Joe Hallet’s interesting article in the Columbus Dispatch on Mayor Mike Coleman.

Quick question: please name the five things that will eventually halt the growth of Columbus.

Answer:  PA, WV, KY, IN and Lake Erie.  I expect that Toledo will make a mad dash for the IN line to avoid having Columbus reach to MI.

Seriously though, Columbus, by rapid growth, has been able to “mask” its core problems.  If you look at Columbus from the 1950 footprint perspective, then it doesn’t look quite as rosy.  See the quote from this Community Research Partners report:

Population loss. From 1970 to 2000, all the study cities, with the exception of Columbus, had a population loss ranging from about one-fifth to one-third of their 1970 population. During this time, the Columbus “older city” (within the city’s 1950 boundaries) lost 30% of its population.”

Go to page 2-4 of the report for an interesting table that illustrates the data problem for Columbus.  As Columbus finds itself increasingly hemmed in, it must now fix its problems.  If, like Cincinnati, it had been forced to “live” within the 1950 boundaries, if would be viewed differently.

So, even though while on the surface it looks like Coleman has been doing an outstanding job, when compared to Mayor Plusquellic  in Akron or Mayor Williams in Youngstown, if this were euchre, he was dealt both bauers and one ace.  He should be able to make the trick.  Not a criticism of Mayor Coleman, but just examining his cards.

State Auditor Launches Shared Services Website

November 9th, 2010

The State Auditor recently launched an interactive web-based tool for exploring examples of local government and school shared service partnerships.  The Shared Services Idea Center, developed in partnership with Kent State University, pulls together information provided by local governments, school systems and other community organizations throughout Ohio.  Greater Ohio believes transformative governance reform is part of a three part strategy, along with building on local and regional assets and engaging the federal government, to strengthen Ohio’s regions and restore prosperity to Ohio.  State policies should more aggressively encourage these innovative shared service partnerships as both a way to save money and enhance efficiency. 

Please check out the Auditor’s site for more information:   http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/sharedservices/