Thursday, September 18, 2003

His task: Help city develop

Official who helped keep Convergys to lead effort

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Chad Munitz, the state development official who helped put together the $192 million deal to keep Convergys Corp.'s Cincinnati headquarters downtown, will become Cincinnati's new economic development director, City Manager Valerie Lemmie said Wednesday.

Munitz, 30, will head a "strike team" of five to seven economic development professionals with a mission to move development projects through City Hall. The creation of the new post, which carries a $90,000 a year salary, was one of the key recommendations of a mayoral task force on reforming Cincinnati's development bureaucracy.

Local business leaders who have worked with Munitz described him as "a smart guy who sweats the details."

Munitz now is the assistant deputy director for the Ohio Department of Development, coordinating the state's tax incentive programs.

Lemmie noted that Munitz put together $100 million-plus deals to retain the The Gap Inc. in Groveport, Ford Motor Co. in Sharonville and Delphi Automotive Systems in Sandusky. Other local deals that have borne his imprint have been Milacron in Batavia, Patheon in Reading, Trillium in St. Bernard and Burrows Paper in Franklin.

But Munitz is best known in Cincinnati for his work on Convergys, which got $144 million in state tax credits, loans and grants - in addition to the controversial $52.2 million city package approved by City Council in July.

Munitz said he understands that public debate over the role of government will be part of the job.

"It's a democratic process. It's not a pretty thing," he said. "I think with Convergys, a good deal was made, and it's going to mean a lot to the future economic health of this city."

In his new job, Munitz will head the Economic Development Division - a new office separate from the Department of Community Development and Planning. He will report directly to Lemmie.

Lemmie admitted that there was no one at City Hall who could tell a potential business prospect what incentives Cincinnati and Ohio could offer - let alone know what Cincinnati's competitors in Northern Kentucky were capable of.

Lemmie said Munitz's first order of business would be to help develop a coherent policy of how and when to use tax incentives to attract and retain businesses.

Nick Vehr, vice president of development for the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and who served on the task force, said City Council shouldn't expect that Munitz would deliver Convergys-like deals.

As important as the job is, Vehr urged City Council to set reasonable expectations.

"It would be unfair to think that Chad is the white knight that is going to bring businesses in his back pocket to Cincinnati," he said. "It's a long-term process."


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