GOPC Staff Attends the 2016 Ohio Brownfields Conference

April 20th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

Earlier this month GOPC staff attended the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 Ohio Brownfields Conference. The two day conference included beginner-friendly and advanced presentations, making the event attractive to attendees from a number of different disciplines such as environmental consultants, economic development, brownfield and other municipal officials, state government officials, developers, and various nonprofit community organizations.

The Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Fund Program was one of the headlining topics during the keynote portion on the first day. GOPC played an instrumental role during the creation of the program nearly one year ago. The program was designed to offer funding for the cleanup and remediation of abandoned gas stations and enable environmentally safe and productive reuse of the sites. The program was established in conjunction with the Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA), the Ohio EPA, and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR). For more information on the Abandoned Gas Stations Cleanup Program, please visit here

Brownfields Conf

Photo by Ohio EPA

The presentations throughout the conference offered creative ways to take the problem of brownfields, and utilize them so they are part of the solution for Ohio communities. Some solutions include building green infrastructure on contaminated sites to tackle combined sewer overflows in urban areas, or turning contaminated materials into value-added engineered materials. It is clear that leaders in the brownfield industry see these contaminated sites as opportunities for growth. Presentations from out-of-state industry leaders offered a valuable education to attendees about what has worked for their state, and how their rules and regulations compare to Ohio’s. GOPC looks forward to incorporating information gained from the Ohio EPA’s 2016 Brownfields Conference to create more opportunities for brownfield remediation in Ohio.

GOPC Legislative Update February 2016

February 26th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Updates on Key Bills:greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag  HB 182 UPDATE: HB 182 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process. On February 10th, the bill, which proposes to allow local governments to establish Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDS) for development purposes, unanimously passed out of the House. Since then the bill has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee where it will receive final review. GOPC expects members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill.

greater-ohio-flag  HB 233 UPDATE: Since our last report, HB 233 received its customary third hearing within the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which proposes to authorize municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts (DRDs) and innovation districts for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings and encourage economic development, had several witnesses attend committee to offer support earlier this month. Proponents of HB 233 included Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, the Ohio Municipal League, Heritage Ohio, the Springfield Port Authority, and Greater Ohio Policy Center. GOPC suspects HB 233 will receive a fourth and final hearing before being sent to the Senate Floor for third consideration.

greater-ohio-flag  SJR3 UPDATE: Senate Joint Resolution 3, which is one of numerous efforts geared towards addressing Ohio’s “clean water” issue, received its very first hearing on February 10th in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) offered testimony asking the committee to consider his plan to expand sewer and water improvements for municipalities, counties, townships, and other government entities. During the hearing Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), who is also Chair of the Lake Erie Caucus, told Senator Schiavoni that he agrees that the state needs to tackle this issue and that SJR3 could be part of the strategy.

New Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 463 is sponsored by State Representative Johnathan Dever (R-Madeira). This bill proposes to establish expedited actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant residential properties. You may recall our coverage on another bill (HB 134), which offers similar reformative measures to the foreclosure process. HB 463 does indeed amend sections of the Ohio Revised Code akin to HB 134, but there are variances. HB 463 is distinctive in three ways: 1) proposes to allow judgement creditors the right to elect a public selling officer (county sheriff) or a private selling officer to sell the property; 2) orders the state to create and maintain a statewide sheriff’s website where auctions can be managed and conducted; 3) allows a person not in possession of an instrument the right to enforce the instrument if there is proof of entitlement.

Representative Dever’s approach to remedy the issues that exist within the current mortgage foreclosure process pushes the foreclosure process to become more modernized via the creation of an online website. GOPC is continuing to review the potential consequences of the bill, , but we are fully supportive of the principle and overall objective of expediting mortgage foreclosure on vacant and abandoned properties.

 

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

Memo to Ohio 2016 Political Candidates for Economic Regeneration and Sustainable Prosperity

February 19th, 2016

In an effort to improve outreach to all of Ohio’s 2016 political candidates, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) has identified key policy areas oriented towards sustainable economic development and revitalization, as well as a general list of policy recommendations that will strengthen our economically competitive communities. This memo is intended to be used as a tool for all of Ohio’s political candidates as they continue through the campaign process.

Click here to read the 2016 Candidates Memo

Candidates memo final

 

The First Step to Revitalization

February 18th, 2016

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Graduate Intern

This week, GOPC released a study called the62.4 Reporton urban health and competitiveness in Akron. The report, whose title refers to the city’s square mileage, realistically acknowledges that the city is facing challenges, but also finds that Akron is in a strong position to deal with them. GOPC’s work on small- and medium-sized legacy cities nationwide has found that for many cities, the first step of recovery and revitalization is understanding and accepting their current situation. This may have been more challenging for Akron, because unlike many of its peers, it has not had a clear moment of hitting “rock bottom” when a major economic sector completely left town. Instead, change in Akron has been slower, with a steady stream of residents and businesses leaving the central city for the suburbs and a more gradual shift from a manufacturing-based to service-based economy. Without a major crisis, the alarm bells never rang, even though conditions in the city were declining.

Downtown overhead

Akron, Ohio

Fortunately, many stakeholders in Akron are willing to take a hard look at where Akron is now to plan for where the city can be. Kyle Kutuchief, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – which grew out of Akron and funded the study, compares the report to diagnostic testing required when going to the doctor. Once the city knows what is wrong, it can start making a plan for getting better.

Akronites are excited about making that plan. GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman and Graduate Intern Torey Hollingsworth travelled to Akron this week to present the report’s findings. At meetings with stakeholders, they had productive conversations about what the city could do to reposition itself as a vibrant, competitive city where people want to live and work. Despite the sobering data, there was clear energy about Akron’s future and resolve to do what it takes to get the city there. Now that the city has taken the tough first step of finding out what needs to change, Akron is even better positioned for recovery. 

Go here to read the report!

GOPC Legislative Update January 2016

January 29th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

January Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

 

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process and was referred to the Senate Financial Institutions Committee on January 20th. With the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s support of HB 303, GOPC is optimistic members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill. GOPC offered Interested Party testimony on behalf of HB 303 and plans to continue offering support as it proceeds through committee within the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: GOPC is happy to report that HB 340 was signed into law on December 22nd, just 9 days before the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) was set to expire. As we reported in December, HB 340 contained more than an emergency extension of the LGIC as it soon became known as a budgetary corrections bill as well. GOPC commends the Legislature for coming together to extend the LGIC, which has provided loans and grants for local government innovation projects to hundreds of communities across the state.

 greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 continues to move through the legislature as it was scheduled for a second hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Five witnesses testified as proponents to the bill, which included Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel; Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the COO of the City of Toledo Eileen Granata. GOPC has offered interested party testimony for HB 233 while it was being vetted by the House, and we look forward to offering interested party testimony in a future hearing.

 greater-ohio-flag SB 232 UPDATE: Earlier this week, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee heard proponent testimony for SB 232. The Ohio State Bar Association was the only organization that offered testimony in support of the bill. Currently, there is no legal protection between ex-spouses for real estate that passes by way of a transfer-on-death (TOD) affidavit or deed. SB 232 intends to bring TOD affidavits and deeds for real estate in line with other areas of the Revised Code. GOPC commends Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Franklin) for championing this corrective legislation and plans to offer support of the bill that will help establish consistency with respect to the legal effects of divorce, dissolution, and annulment on beneficiary designations.

 

New Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 418 is sponsored by State Representative John Barnes (D-Cleveland). This bill proposes to enact the “Senior Housing Relief Act”, which will prohibit the sale of delinquent property tax certificates for homesteads owned for at least 20 years by a person aged 65 or older. Currently, local governments can place a lien on a property that is delinquent in property tax payments. HB 418 would remove properties that fall under the Senior Housing Relief Act from the list of parcels that may be selected for a tax certificate sale. HB 418 seeks to address an increasingly serious issue many Ohioans within the elderly community face. This bill will provide a much-needed supportive service to communities and will have positive long-term effects as it will keep people in their homes thus preventing blight.

 

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

Economists Believe 2016 Shows Promise for Ohio

January 8th, 2016

By Alex Highley, Project Associate

Panelists at the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Blue Chip Economic Forecast offered bright expectations for Ohio in 2016. Gazing into their crystal balls, economists Bill Lafayette, Founder of Regionomics, and Ben Ayers, Senior Economist at Nationwide expressed their beliefs that net job growth will remain on the uptick and that Ohio will reflect the national incline. Still, in this statistically-dense session, the pair identified some job sectors that likely will continue to struggle and acknowledged that many people around the state would have trouble obtaining jobs.

2015’s job growth proved even better than Lafayette had expected this time last year. 22,000 net new jobs were created in central Ohio and this is a trend Lafayette believes will stay on course. He expects the education and health care sector to continue to thrive. Currently, one in four new jobs is created in this arena. Ayers and Lafayette also believe housing, technical services, and corporate management will do particularly well this year.

CMC economic forecast 2016

While central Ohio will probably see continued population and job growth this year, the fruits of this development can be enjoyed throughout the metro area. Areas such as Lancaster, Chillicothe, and Groveport can benefit from successes of Columbus’ growth. According to Lafayette, the rest of the Midwest lags behind central Ohio because it relies so heavily on the manufacturing industry. While much of the Ohio economy is built around manufacturing, there is still potential for job formation in other sectors. As discussed in GOPC’s report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, assets in the heart of downtown, such as universities, medical centers, and government offices, represent the economic engine of any city. These fundamental resources employ thousands, spur economic activity, and build on their successes in surrounding neighborhoods.

Both panelists acknowledged that people from the Midwest tend to be more risk-averse and that this fear of failure when thinking of starting a business is perhaps holding Ohio back. If this attitude can be overcome, Lafayette thinks more people will pursue self-employed businesses in Columbus and throughout the state and that Ohio would be closer to fulfilling its business potential. GOPC works to ensure that business-friendly environments are prevalent throughout the state and that business owners in all neighborhoods and communities thrive and have the community-based tools to be successful job creators.

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!

Ohio Cities Boost Downtown Revitalization with Waterfront Parks

November 13th, 2015

By Sheldon K. Johnson, Urban Revitalization Project Specialist

In 2010 the Greater Ohio Policy Center, along with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, published Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy. This report is a comprehensive blueprint for transitioning Ohio into an economy that is export-oriented, lower-carbon, and innovation-fueled. Ohio’s metropolitan areas— encompassing urban, suburban, and rural places— are home to the necessary resources that will lead the state into the next economy. GOPC’s Restoring Prosperity agenda is focused on advocating for state and local initiatives that will leverage these prosperity drivers.

riverfront

One recommendation from the Restoring Prosperity report was to create a state-level “Walkable Waterfronts” initiative that supports local efforts to revitalize urban riverways and lakefronts. In recent years two Ohio cities celebrated the opening of waterfront parks that seek to boost their downtown revitalization initiatives. In May of 2012 the first phase of the John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park opened in Cincinnati and this past week the Scioto Greenways Park opened in Columbus.

These two projects are fantastic examples of leveraging Ohio’s natural resources as prosperity drivers. Numerous studies show that urban greenspaces are important amenities that have the potential to yield economic benefits in addition to tremendous environmental and social benefits.

Cincinnati and Columbus are only two of the metropolitan areas in Ohio with idyllic waterways. Cities ranging from Toledo to Marietta to Hamilton to Youngstown are built on waterways that present opportunities for recreational use, quality of life enhancement, and economic development. GOPC celebrates the progress being made, but will continue to advocate for walkable waterways throughout the state.

Steubenville Summit Generates Ideas to Reinvigorate Historic Downtown

November 6th, 2015

Guest Post by Evan Scurti, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Port Authority

This past October, the City of Steubenville, Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, and the Jefferson County Port Authority took the first step in a long-term journey of sustainable growth and reinvestment in historic downtown Steubenville. “Investing in the Ville–A Real Estate and Business Development Summit” was created through the collaborative efforts of the three local governments, a steering committee of passionate citizens, and sponsorship money and services from local merchants. The event exceeded expectations by welcoming over 100 local and regional developers, investors, building owners, and interested citizens. Organizers agreed that this successful inaugural event is only the beginning of a series of interconnected strategies focused on reinventing the CBD of a historic city that is striving to reposition itself in a new global economy. While the old steel mills employing tens of thousands on both sides of the Ohio River no longer exist as an anchor to support bustling downtowns, there is currently great potential for Ohio Valley growth as new industries like oil and gas extraction emerge. Steubenville’s leaders are focused on guiding that growth back to the historic and large urban core of the city.

steubenville

Aerial shot of Steubenville, Ohio

The event featured Keynote Speaker Franzi Charen, Executive Director of the Asheville Grown Alliance, a nonprofit supporting grassroots development and local entrepreneurship efforts in Asheville, North Carolina’s downtown. Franzi’s message resonated with the Steubenville crowd, as Asheville has also had to adapt to industrial economy changes in sectors like textiles. Through the vision of creative local developers and entrepreneurs, Asheville has diversified its economy and strengthened its tourism trade, which are both goals that Steubenville is beginning to adopt as its own. To help make downtown Steubenville a renewed destination for locals as well as visitors, the City administration has developed an exciting streetscape and civic plaza vision for the heart of the CBD. Consultants’ overviews of these plans followed Franzi’s address. The event culminated in an inspiring address by a longtime downtown business owner and resident who emphasized the safety and strong potential of the CBD and a walking tour of prime development opportunities that are ripe for new visions.

Event organizers have agreed that this should be the beginning of an annual effort to celebrate successes, invite and brainstorm building reuse ideas, track the CBD’s vacancy rate, and reassess the overall downtown plan. Downtown Steubenville is a special place with a large, impressive built environment. Local leaders are showing great commitment to current and future generations by engaging in the best kind of smart economic development–rebuilding and reusing the infrastructure and wonderful buildings erected by past generations. We firmly believe in, and will work toward, this event growing into a regional movement to renew one of Ohio’s most unique places with enormous potential.

GOPC Offers Testimony in Statehouse

October 28th, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, Government Affairs Manager

Throughout the month of October, Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner has been on the move within the House and Senate offering interested party testimony for various legislative bills that would impact Ohio’s revitalization policies. From establishing Downtown Redevelopment Districts and collecting data to track the effectiveness of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, to extending and expanding the Local Government Innovation Council, there is a lot going on within the chambers of our Legislature.

On October 14th, GOPC submitted written interested party testimony for HB 340, which proposes to extend the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) through December 31, 2019. Currently, the LGIC is scheduled to sunset by the end of December this year. GOPC was extremely supportive of the LGIC when it was established nearly five years ago and we have been impressed by the Program’s positive impact in hundreds of communities across the state. Our testimony to the House State Government Committee affirmed that this program effectively encourages Ohio governments to work more efficiently and that extending the LGIC would enable the continuation of the programs that have benefited communities in innovation, efficiency, and public safety.

LG testify

Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs, offered interested party testimony on numerous bills this month.

HB 233, which proposes to authorize cities to create Downtown Redevelopment Districts (DRDs) and Innovation Districts to promote economic development, is another bill GOPC has strived to place in the spotlight within its respected committee. Earlier this month GOPC offered testimony that supported the overall objectives of the proposal and shared with members of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee of our endorsement of the bill. Testimony stated that our Policy Committee decided to endorse HB 233 as it champions revitalization and incentivizes much-needed investment and redevelopment in Ohio. Additionally, since offering testimony for this bill, HB 233 was amended before ultimately being passed out of Committee. GOPC is happy to report that the bill was amended to include a provision requiring the collection of necessary data to track the performance of revenues resulting from the Historic Preservation Tax Credit (HPTC). As you may recall, the HPTC has played a vital role in the rehabilitation of historic buildings throughout Ohio and has proven to bring economic benefits to the state in more ways than one. This new provision will help the preservation community and members of the Legislature gain a better understanding of why the HPTC is so important.

For more information on GOPC’s testimony, the endorsement of HB 233, or to ask any questions pertaining to our legislative efforts, please feel free to contact Lindsey Gardiner at LGardiner@greaterohio.org.