The following has been submitted to many of the region’s newspapers for publication:
By Rob Briggs and William Currin
Northeast Ohio must get regionalism right.
The acrimonious debate over the fate of the Avon interchange on I-90 is a watershed moment for our region. While some characterize the resolution of the debate as a sign that regionalism will never work in Northeast Ohio, we say that it is proof positive that our region needs a broad, collaborative approach to economic development that enables every community an opportunity to contribute to and share in its growth.
Simply put, regionalism isn’t a choice. It is our reality. We are a region because we, as individuals, act regionally. Nearly 25% of us in the 16 counties that make up Northeast Ohio work in a different county than where we live. We are a region because the global economy treats us as a region. Corporations base investment decisions not on which city or town they want to be in, but what a region has to offer that bolsters their ability to compete.
Regionalism isn’t unique to Northeast Ohio. Cities and their surrounding communities across this country share an inescapable common destiny. This is made clear by a Brookings Institution study that found that out of 118 communities only five had a weak city inside a strong region or vice versa. It is an economic fact of life that the health of our region and our core cities are inextricably linked.
The devastating cost of getting regionalism wrong can be seen all across Northeast Ohio. Core communities, from Youngstown to Lorain, are scarred by vacant homes, abandoned businesses and decaying infrastructure. Our outlying, rural communities are at risk of losing their quality of life at the hands of unfettered sprawl. Our region’s economy is growing slower than our pace of physical growth. That means higher taxes for any given level of services. We are approaching the point where neither our economy nor our environment can support all of the concrete we are pouring.
We, as individuals, act regionally every day. However, we rarely work collectively at being regional. We began to make real progress at changing that earlier this year when the region’s business, political, philanthropic and other leaders joined together to support a series of economic development initiatives that are part of Advance Northeast Ohio, the region’s economic action plan. One of the four focus areas of Advance Northeast Ohio is implementing programs and policies that encourage more efficient and collaborative government and governmental services in Northeast Ohio.
The Avon interchange issue highlights the need for our region to accelerate the process of building trust among the region’s many governmental bodies. We can no longer afford ad hoc regionalism, nor can we afford to have one group or party try to dictate how regionalism will unfold in Northeast Ohio. We must reach these conclusions together…collectively.
A broad, collaborative, sustainable, and nonpartisan approach to regional economic development that would include revenue sharing and common land use practices is being explored by the Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association with assistance from the Fund for Our Economic Future. This approach won’t ask any community to give up what they have now, but calls on all of us to share together in our future growth. We expect to present to all of the communities in Northeast Ohio details about this approach early in 2008.
The Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association has taken an important step toward getting regionalism right by undertaking this project and the Fund is prepared to do more to encourage a collaborative, sustainable, and nonpartisan regional approach to economic development. Who else is prepared to step forward? As Benjamin Franklin said upon signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must hang together…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” He and others went on to form “a more perfect union.” We need to do the same. Join with us in developing and implementing the solution to assure a brighter future for Northeast Ohio.
Rob Briggs is chairman of the Fund for Our Economic Future and William A. Currin is Mayor of Hudson and chairman of the Northeast Ohio Mayors & City Managers Association.
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Food processing alone is a $7 Billion industry annually in Northeast Ohio and that figure does not take into account the value of farming.
The Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District recently published a report on the cost of providing government services to agricultural land, versus the cost of serving agricultural land that is developed for residential use. The report summarizes that it simply costs more to service residential areas and the net tax revenue from residential areas is less than it was as agricultural land (taking into account lost economic benefit from wineries and beds & breakfast, etc). Lake County SWCD wants to use this report to increase awareness in the sub-region about agriculture as an economic driver. They reached out to me at ANEO and said, “how can you help and how can we work together.”
While Wayne County may not use its agricultural land exactly the same way they do in Lake County, I can assure you that folks in Wayne County are fighting the same battle – they know that their agricultural heritage creates more economic value than suburban sprawl could ever create in their communities.
I’d like to help the region’s agricultural community to come together and create a shared regional agenda for preserving agricultural land. How should we do this and who will lead the agenda’s implementation once its formed?
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Fri, 04/04/2008 – 10:54 — George Nemeth (not verified)
Please keep me in the loop/let me know how I can help.
Fri, 04/04/2008 – 11:50 — laurasteinbrink
Can we do a meet the bloggers on Agribusiness? Or, if we do a series of symposiums or such around the region, would there be interest in engaging you all as part of the “infrastructure” of conducting them? (ie recording and processing and publicizing info?)
Laura Steinbrink Director, Regional Partnerships [email protected]
Fri, 04/04/2008 – 13:49 — Georgia Reash (not verified)
My company can help with the grassroots mobilization on a regional level. In fact, working with real people, real citizens, real children, real families – and their supporting institutions – is how we really desire to make a difference.
Give a call or email. I’d love to hear more about what you need.
Community Transition Partners
A group of Ohio Legislators have introduced legislation to create a commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration. The legislation calls for an appointment of 9 people appointed by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the Governor. The legislation calls for the final report to be due no later than July 1, 2010.
I say YEAH to the notion of a review of this nature. The citizens of Northeast Ohio who gave voice during Voices & Choices said it needed to happen in our region – so the state is in alignment with their thinking. In a network based society (which we are in now) versus a hierarchical society (which is what we had in centuries past), it concerns me to think that 9 people are going to issue recommendations that will affect 11+ million Ohioans and there is no mandate to engage or even listen to Ohio citizens in the process of defining the solutions. The best plan is one that the implementers are part of creating. I think the legislation should include some metrics and mid-term deliverables like:
1. Requirement of open, community-engaged processes that reaches no less than 10% of the entire state population (with appropriate documentation of said process reported on some regular basis).
2. Requirement that an online space be created where citizens of Ohio can track, monitor and engage with the Commission’s work and progress.
3. Requirement that each commission member participates in open forums and workshops (where action is initiated, not just talking taking place) and measure and report commission participation.
Without an open process, I think there is less likelihood of actionable recommendations.
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# Submitted by cthompson on Thu, 05/01/2008 – 13:42.
Editorial writers are getting on the bandwagon on the issue of government reform.
This Plain Dealer editorial today used examples of patronage jobs in Cuyahoga County to highlight the legislators’ call for a commission to examine government reform.
The Akron Beacon Journal editorial page earlier took up the cause, making the following point:
Ohioans rightly scratch their heads at neighboring communities battling to lure companies across little more than county lines. Such episodes are not sound economic development. Neither does it makes sense for so many townships and smaller cities to have their own police departments…To be sure, commission recommendations rarely translate directly into law. In this case, a vigorous conversation must be started. Local government in Ohio is outmoded and inefficient. Failing to take a hard look promises to be costly.
The two largest media outlets are supporting calls for reform. What do you the residents of the region have to say?
In May 2008 partners in Advance Northeast Ohio met to review the region’s action plan. The meeting was held at the University of Akron Taylor Institute of Direct Marketing.
Please take the time to watch videos of the presentations and conversations that were held during the partners meeting.
The cry for more talent is becoming a crescendo.
Yesterday during a meeting with leaders of area chambers of commerce, one suburban president said the number one issue she’s hearing from employers is the need for talent — everything from entry-level workers to high-skilled technicians. The other chamber presidents at the table nodded in agreement. One said she got a call from an employer who needs 20 workers — immediately.
There are lots of organizations in Northeast Ohio that are working on workforce and talent issues. Advance Northeast Ohio is striving to make those organizations more effective in meeting employers needs.
The Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board is taking a step in the right direction by surveying employers regarding their staffing needs. Please take the survey now.
And I hope you’ll start a conversation here on the best ways for the region’s Workforce Investment Boards to help out our employers.
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# Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 06/20/2007 – 09:29.
Maybe the lack of applicants is related to the wages and benefits. Employers should think about offering a “living wage” in order to achieve a talented and full workforce.