Sunday, September 28, 2003

Cutting red tape to be top task

City's new development boss will press reform

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Chad Munitz, Cincinnati's new chief development officer, worked for the Ohio Department of Development in Columbus for six years.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
Chad Munitz has earned a reputation as a hard worker and effective deal closer over the past six years with the Ohio Department of Development.

Munitz soon will bring those skills to Cincinnati as the city's $90,000-a-year chief development officer. He starts Oct. 7.

The job is a newly created position - the result of a City Hall shake-up that aims to fundamentally change how the city manages the business of economic development. Those who've worked with the 30-year-old say he's a detail-oriented manager who brings clout to the new position.

"Chad's a guy who could dig into the details and get it done," said Bruce Johnson, director of the state development department. "He's going to a place where he's going to be effective."

Munitz joined the state's development office in November 1996 and rose to deputy director of development. While he managed a staff of six officers, he often became directly involved in negotiations for large deals that landed employers, such as Kohl's and the Gap. He was the force behind Ohio's offering of $144.2 million in state grants, tax breaks and a loan that kept Convergys Corp. downtown.

In Cincinnati, the position of economic development chief has been a pressure cooker.

Four people have held the job over the last four years. Each of those managers resigned or was reassigned as private builders, hired consultants and elected officials criticized the city's sluggish development efforts.

Munitz knows the hot-seat nature of the job.

But he thinks reforms recommended by a mayoral task force headed by City Manager Valerie Lemmie and Fifth Third Bank chief executive officer George A. Schaefer Jr. will make the position more efficient - and effective.

"The plan they put together will put Cincinnati in a place that no other major city will be at," Munitz said.

He will head the Economic Development Division - a special "strike force" to guide development projects through the city bureaucracy that is separate from the Department of Community Development and Planning.

Munitz's division will work closely with a new private development group called Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), which will seek to spur new office, shops and housing from the riverfront through Over-the-Rhine. Chaired by Procter & Gamble chief executive A.G. Lafley, this private group is conducting a search for an executive director.

Yet another public-private development group - the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority - will have a hand in city developments. The port's twin mission is guiding the Banks riverfront development and tackling difficult brownfield projects - old industrial sites that often are abandoned with contamination of hazardous materials.

Some local development pros say the confusing web of public and private development groups could create confusion and conflict, if not managed properly.

"You've basically got four different entities," said David Main, president of Hamilton County Development Co. "My only fear is that I can see four department heads each pointing the finger at each other. Who's really in charge?"

Munitz will begin work on three specific areas when he starts next month - hiring staff and forming a new "one-stop" permit center. Also, he'll be asked to develop a policy on incentives and develop other guidelines under the direction of City Council.

Munitz wants a staff that includes the best of City Hall's development staff and new recruits.

"I want good people," he said.

Some warn that City Hall's difficult bureaucracy won't change overnight.

Even if a one-stop permit center is established, Munitz's success will depend on how well he can persuade city employees to perform mundane tasks such as granting sewer permits or initiating site-plan reviews.

"He can have tights and a cape on, but he still won't be able to get things done until the departments below him cooperate," said Arn Bortz, partner of Towne Properties and former Cincinnati mayor. "Departments must feel accountable to him. That represents a pretty radical change in thinking" at City Hall.


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