The Water & Sewer Infrastructure Crisis and Potential Paths Forward

March 3rd, 2015

By Samantha Dawson, GOPC Intern, and Marianne Eppig, Manager of Research & Communications

Our nation and its legacy cities are facing an impending infrastructure crisis: water and sewer systems are failing and require modernization as soon as possible. Most of these water and sewer systems were built following WWII, meaning that they are approaching the end of their useful life. In some places, the infrastructure is already beginning to fail, leading to water main breaks, housing floods, sewage overflows into the environment, and public health crises.

While the national bill to upgrade this infrastructure has been estimated at around $1 trillion, costs for addressing Ohio’s existing water and sewer system deficiencies are estimated to be around $20.84 billion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To meet federal clean water mandates, cities must find ways to finance these needed infrastructure overhauls in short order. So far, many cities around Ohio have been ratcheting up water and sewer rates. The city of Akron, for example, has increased rates by 71% in one year. Other cities around Ohio have raised rates between 30% to 50% or more within the last two years.

Graph-WaterRates-OEPA    Graph-SewerRates-OEPA

GOPC is currently looking into other financial tools that can be used to restore Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems. We will be discussing these tools with a panel of experts at our upcoming 2015 Summit on June 9th during the following session:

Finding Solutions to Ohio’s Water Infrastructure Challenges 

Ohio cities, large and small, must address the critical behind-the-scenes challenge of modernizing their water and sewer infrastructure to avoid potential serious public health crises and environmental degradation, and to create capacity to attract and support businesses and residents.  However, Ohio’s cities are struggling to find ways to finance the complicated infrastructure overhauls needed to address these challenges, comply with federal mandates, and even support on-going maintenance. On this panel, experts will discuss the scope of these infrastructure challenges along with innovative financing approaches and sustainable solutions necessary for Ohio’s cities to function smoothly and accommodate regrowth.

We hope you will join us at the 2015 Summit! For more information about the Summit agenda and to register, click here.

GOPC Co-Hosts Roundtable on Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets

February 4th, 2015

This Tuesday, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) co-hosted the Roundtable, “Rebuilding Neighborhood Markets: Strategies for Linking Small Business Support and Commercial Vacant Property Reuse in Ohio’s Communities” in partnership with the Ohio CDC Association and the Finance Fund. This Roundtable was part of ongoing work that GOPC will be conducting to promote the combination of small business support and commercial vacant properties in Ohio’s communities. We’ve included presentations and materials from the event below.

Introductory presentation by Lavea Brachman, Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, framing the event:

Brachman introduced the discussion by demonstrating the need for further efforts to connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout Ohio.

 

Presentation by Mihailo (Mike) Temali, Founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, MN:

Temali presented the Neighborhood Development Center’s unique approach that involves training local entrepreneurs and redeveloping commercial vacant properties where their new businesses can locate.

Temali also provided the following materials:

 

Presentation by Kimberly Faison, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for ProsperUS in Detroit, MI:

Faison discussed how they are adopting the Neighborhood Development Center’s model in Detroit by concentrating micro-enterprise development in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods.

Faison also provided the following materials:

 

Overall, this Roundtable provided an opportunity to discuss the merits of this model, relevant existing programs and practices in Ohio, and efforts needed for a potential longer-term effort that would connect small business growth and commercial revitalization throughout the state. We look forward to engaging further in this work!

 

Brachman to present at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis

January 20th, 2015

This Thursday, January 22, from 3:30—5:00pm, GOPC’s Executive Director, Lavea Brachman will present at OSU’s Center for Urban & Regional Analysis. Her presentation, “Shining Cities on a Hill or Lights Under a Bushel? Realizing the Economic Potential of Ohio’s Cities, Towns and Metros” will discuss:

Throughout our history, American leaders have characterized our communities as potential “cities upon a hill.” One of Ohio’s greatest resources–as well as one of the state’s most powerful economic engines–are its many cities, towns and metros. But are we sufficiently leveraging assets to retain the current workforce, to realize their potential as centers for innovation, and to fulfill their potential as affordable and livable communities?

This talk will discuss current impediments to leveraging these places’ economic potential; identify solutions to restore prosperity; and outline plans for regenerating economic growth in Ohio’s cities, towns and metros that build on their past and prepare for the future.

The presentation will take place in 1080 Derby Hall at 154 N. Oval Mall in Columbus. All are invited and refreshments will be provided. We hope you join us!

New GOPC Study Finds Strong Potential in Innovative Neighborhood Revitalization Pilot

January 14th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center today releases an independent analysis of an innovative model for neighborhood recovery being piloted in a Cleveland neighborhood, finding promising results for this block-by-block holistic approach to revitalization that combines demolition and rehabilitation.

SVR-cover

Slavic Village, a neighborhood located 6 miles south of downtown Cleveland, represents many of the strengths and challenges that characterize our historic urban communities. An intact neighborhood with a rich cultural history and strong community institutions, it also experienced the highest foreclosure rate in the country in 2008, and increasing rates of poverty and unemployment.

Based on 2014 analysis, the GOPC study, Documenting the Slavic Village Recovery Project: An Early Review of a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization in Cleveland, Ohio, released in conjunction with the Slavic Village Recovery, LLC, (SVR) finds preliminary results for the SVR Project, including:

  • Sales prices of the initial homes reached the targeted amount necessary to cover rehab costs and make a small $5,000-$10,000 profit; received an appraisal value above the listed $60,000 sale price; and sold quickly.
  • Neighborhood morale is high and neighbors are positive about the project.
  • Investment is taking place in the neighborhood apart from direct involvement with SVR, suggesting, perhaps, that SVR’s private sector partners created market confidence for new businesses and city and regional governments.

The Study also noted several keys to SVR’s early successes:

  • A holistic approach to community development and a clear comprehensive plan, strategically linking demolition and rehabilitation.
  • A focus on properties with value and the strong relationships needed to acquire properties from REO lists and banks
  • A philanthropic mission paired with a for-profit approach in executing the mission

Based on the data available to date, GOPC finds aspects of this Project potentially adaptable to other neighborhoods in other cities, although the context for replication is important. Several key factors, such as a pipeline of available properties, must be present for replication and those interested in duplicating the model may need to take the time to get these factors in place first in order to be successful.

Recognizing the opportunity to stabilize and revitalize this still vital area, four partners—two non-profit and two for-profit organizations—came together in 2013 to create Slavic Village Recovery, LLC. SVR aims to eradicate blight entirely from a targeted area in the neighborhood and thus reach a positive tipping point one block at a time.  SVR combines strategic demolition with housing rehabilitation, as well as resident support services, with the goal of achieving comprehensive redevelopment.

For more information on the progress and impact of Slavic Village Recovery, please click here to see our full assessment.

A Lesson in Pivoting a Legacy City from the Hamilton Mill

January 8th, 2015

Guest post by Antony Seppi, Operations Director of the Hamilton Mill in the City of Hamilton, Ohio

The “pivot,” according to Merriam-Webster is the “action of turning around a point.” The legacy cities of Ohio and other Midwest cities need to be adept at making these “pivots” for the sake of their long-term survival. Hamilton is pivoting with significant downtown revitalization strategies that will reclaim our urban core. “The Mill,” as it is affectionately known throughout Southwest Ohio, is Hamilton’s small business incubator and is just one piece of the many exciting initiatives taking place in this rustbelt community. Our City’s Economic Development Department has been recognized on several fronts and the pieces are in place to carry the momentum forward. This is all after being dealt several crippling blows in the early 2010’s that included the shuddering of two paper mills, the loss of a major downtown employer, and the after effects of the Great Recession. This is all happening in a legacy city that was built on manufacturing – automotive, beverage, paper, and steel.

In July of 2014, the new and improved Hamilton Mill was unveiled. A new era of business incubation is taking place at The Hamilton Mill, which is conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. We are Southwestern Ohio’s only small business incubator dedicated to green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. We are leveraging the extremely progressive City of Hamilton utilities department that delivers gas, water, electric, waste treatment, and broadband services to our residents and businesses. The municipally provided utilities will be 75%-80% renewable energy when the Meldahl Hydroelectric project comes on-line in 2015. This revolutionary change is taking place now.

The Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small business, has determined that younger firms are the job creators, and The Mill will be an important part of that going forward. We have succeeded in developing significant collaborations with organizations that share our passion for transforming the region’s innovation landscape. It is a formula that has proven itself countless times, and it is a valued principal that has come to define us, as well as the advancement of the region’s start-up community.

We are not new to the game, just more engaged with the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and the needs of Southwest Ohio. The incubator has served Butler County and Southwest Ohio since 2003 and will continue to provide a home to high growth startups that are building things, specifically around manufacturing, clean technology, and digital applications. Below are some key metrics and awards that we have been recognized for since we began our relaunch initiative one year ago.

Mill-Stats

As you can see, our mindset at The Mill is all about innovation and making the swift, key pivots that are required from organizations to be successful. The Mill, in and of itself, is a start-up – just like the start-ups that we are mentoring and recruiting to be part of our journey.

Mill-Award1

Mill-Award2

GOPC Participates in Conferences on Community Revitalization

November 3rd, 2014

GOPC has been keeping busy! Want to find out what we’ve been up to? Take a look at the events GOPC has been participating in:

CEOs for Cities

CEOs for Cities National Meeting
Nashville, Tennessee
November 4-6, 2014

Our Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, attended the CEOs for Cities National Meeting in Nashville this year. The meeting convened leaders from around the globe to learn the smartest ways to measure, benchmark and catalyze city progress, exchange best practices for cross-sector collaboration, and explore the smartest ideas for reaping dividends through targeted, measurable investments in economic growth and opportunity.

Participants explored what the city of Nashville has to offer. CEOs for Cities has also announced they will be releasing City Vitals 3.0 at the meeting. There are still a few slots open, so visit the website and register today to see what these city leaders have to say.

 

Ohio Housing Conference

Ohio Housing Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 4-6, 2014

GOPC’s Associate Director, Alison Goebel, presented at this year’s Ohio Housing Conference, “United for Ohio’s Communities.” This meeting celebrated the impact that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing’s common mission of providing decent affordable housing has had on Ohio’s residents, communities and economy. Those who attended were able to converse with over 1,600 peers who are passionate about affordable housing and engage in over 50 sessions and workshops.

Alison’s first presentation, titled “Effective Partnerships: From Demolition to Development,” is included below:

Panel Description: This session will discuss a broad range of vacant property issues including how demolition funding is used by land banks to assist cities/towns to strategically target blight, and assist developers in effective redevelopment and long-term community stabilization. Who are the players and partners, (perhaps some you haven’t thought of) that can help? What are the roadblocks facing efforts to combat vacancy and blight? How can we develop partnerships to make the most impact from limited funding resources across the board – from demolition to development?

The panel also included:

  • Carlie J. Boos, Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA)
  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Aaron K. Sorrell, City of Dayton

GOPC also presented on the “Legacy Cities” panel and gave the following presentation:

Panel Description: An overview of revitalization and preservation of the social aspects of neighborhoods including retail recruitment, public space, amenities for residents and priorities for pedestrians including bicycles and walkable neighborhoods.

The panel also featured:

  • Margo Warminski, Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA)
  • Daniel J. Hammel, University of Toledo

 

Habitat

Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference
Columbus, Ohio
November 11-12, 2014

Alison Goebel presented at this year’s Habitat for Humanity of Ohio Conference on a panel titled “County Land Banks: Opportunities for Partnership in Neighborhood Revitalization” on November 12th. This session described what county land banks do in Ohio and how they operate. Then, panelists representing two different Habitat affiliates and a county land bank discussed how partnerships among land banks and non-profits can mutually benefit each organization and highlighted strategies and models that can be replicated in other communities.

Other panelists included:

  • John Habat, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
  • Amy Hamrick, Richland County Land Bank
  • Dawn Stutz, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati

 

GOPC Invites Panel Proposals for its June 2015 Summit on Innovation & Sustainable Growth in Ohio

October 20th, 2014

GOPC 2015 Summit

Deadline for Letters of Interest: November 14, 2014

Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies: A Summit on Innovation and Sustainable Growth in Ohio’s Cities & Regions, a Summit hosted by the Greater Ohio Policy Center on June 9-10 of 2015 at the Westin Columbus, will explore the links between neighborhood revitalization and regional growth that make economically Ohio competitive in the 21st century.

GOPC welcomes champions of sustainable development from across Ohio to participate in this Summit, creating a dialogue around both policy and practice that will set an agenda for innovation, sustainable growth, and economic prosperity in Ohio.

We invite Letters of Interest describing panels that address the role of innovation and sustainable development in city and regional revitalization and economic growth in Ohio, such as:

  • approaches to generating and supporting innovation economies in Ohio’s cities
  • strategies for metropolitan and regional sustainable development and economic growth
  • practices for vacant and abandoned property reuse and community revitalization
  • financial tools for infrastructure improvement
  • options and financing for advancing multimodal transportation
  • financial tools and partners for strengthening neighborhoods and downtowns
  • case studies of ways to address environmental and equitable development issues
  • innovative governance tools that advance sustainable development and economic growth
  • new cross-sector community and regional solutions for revitalization

Summit sessions will address a wide range of topics essential to sustainable development and economic growth in Ohio, appealing to an audience that includes civic, business, philanthropic, non-profit and political leaders, including bankers, developers, and practitioners. The Summit will highlight cutting-edge strategies and practices, new tools, effective partnerships and policy solutions that are laying the foundation for building sustainable, prosperous, innovative communities and regions in Ohio and beyond.

Format and Process for Letters of Interest

Letters of Interest (up to 500 words) should describe the panel concept and how it will contribute to the Summit. Please include a list of proposed speakers and be prepared to confirm their participation upon panel acceptance.

GOPC will work with selected participants to finalize panel topics and speakers. GOPC will notify all individuals who submit a Letter of Interest with a decision by January 2015.

Contact

Please direct any questions about the Summit or this process to gopcsummit@gmail.com. Letters of Interest should be submitted to the same address by November 14, 2014.

About Greater Ohio Policy Center

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Columbus and operating statewide, develops and advances policies and practices that value our urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland. Through education, research, and outreach, GOPC strives to create a political and policy climate receptive to new economic and governmental structures that advance sustainable development and economic growth.

 

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.

 

YNDC’s New Small Business Loans

September 5th, 2014

By Octavious Singleton, GOPC Intern

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

Photo of small business support at YNDC by Marianne Eppig

The Youngstown Neighborhood and Development Corporation (YNDC) is promoting growth in Youngstown, Ohio by supporting local businesses. The non-profit will grant equipment loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to companies whose applications are approved. While any type of business can apply, the criteria they must meet include: 1) the company must be located in the city, 2) the owner must be a resident, and 3) the company must have five or fewer employees. To further narrow the selection of businesses, YNDC will consider whether the owners are low-income individuals, if they are hiring, and the likelihood that the business will prosper in the future.

The loan allows the companies the opportunity to obtain needed equipment for business expansion, which should ultimately generate economic benefits in the city. YNDC is only attaching a 2% interest rate to the loans. The YNDC will also be flexible on the amount of years repayment will take. This approach is set up to ensure small companies benefit from the aid.

Selected companies will be awarded loans in November. The loans will be a pilot program to determine whether YNDC expands its mission into micro-business support. Loan applications are available in YNDC office, at 820 Canfield Road, and by emailing Liberty Merrill at lmerrill@yndc.org.

For more information on this program, visit YNDC’s website.

See also: “YNDC Taking Applications for Small Business Loans” by Josh Medore for The Business Journal

Ohio Attorney General DeWine files lawsuit as part of Operation Mis-Modification

July 28th, 2014

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

On July 23, 2014, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined fourteen other state Attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in filing lawsuits against “foreclosure relief scammers.” Ohio’s lawsuit, filed against a Chicago Company, is one of forty-one companion lawsuits against a total of nine individuals or companies. The lawsuits are being dubbed “Operation Mis-Modification.”

The Plaintiffs allege these companies misrepresented their services or failed to perform services for consumers who were facing foreclosure and seeking assistance, such as loan modifications. According to the Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits, many of the defendants allegedly took advance payments in excess of allowable limits and/or received payment for services never rendered.

If Ohio’s lawsuit is successful, impact consumers may see restitution and the state may receive penalty fees. For Operation Mis-Modification, Ohio is joined by Attorneys general from Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Operation Mis-Modification lawsuits are not like current “bank settlements” that are in the works, such as the settlement with Bank of America. The “bank settlements” are expected to include billion-dollar agreements with lending financial institutions. These settlements could benefit consumers, or go directly to states, as did the funding that supported the Moving Ohio Forward program. As more information is released on potential future bank settlements, GOPC will be sure to update its blog and social media channels.