Wednesday, October 15, 2003

What's the buzz?

Bar raised for local fund-raising

Cliff Peale

The goal is $25 million for the next round of the Partnership for Greater Cincinnati, the region's economic-development campaign.

That's 25 percent higher than the previous campaign, which runs through 2003. Local execs say they need more money to pump up their promotion of Greater Cincinnati to relocating or expanding businesses.

The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's Nick Vehr, point man for the effort, said the goal is not set in stone. But he's been pitching the partnership for months to the 200 or so companies that contributed in the last round starting in 1999.

Now the partnership just has to raise the money. And it won't be easy.

The national recession, the Comair pilot strike here and the region's well-publicized image problems all have hampered the effort in the last several years.

Excuses aside, here's how the partnership has done against its ambitious goals it set five years ago:

• 90,000 new jobs: At the end of 2002, local companies had created 44,111 new jobs, Vehr said.

• 1,000 new or expanded investments: As of last year, 888 companies had poured money into their operations here.

• Doubling the size of international business community here: From a base of 168 international companies, the region has added 87 more.

In case you're wondering, the partnership does more than put ads in overseas magazines. It funds the CincyTech USA advocacy group, as well as the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's workforce development and young-professional retention programs.

Pizza from home

In a nod to the flexible schedules today's workers demand, LaRosa's Inc. is starting to hire telephone operators to work from home.

The west-side pizzeria company doesn't plan to abandon its 136-station phone center at the Boudinot Avenue headquarters in Westwood.

At peak times, the center is full, so LaRosa's is planning for the future with the home-based strategy.

Two people testing it this summer "absolutely loved" the system, and LaRosa's could fit in half a dozen more this year, said Pam Fulks, the official planning the expansion.

"As we grow and add stores, we don't want to duplicate the call center," Fulks said. "It's part of our growth strategy."

Big crowds for cards

The Cincinnati Bengals have only won only one game, but the team's popularity looks good at Gold Star Chili.

The chain said it has sold more than 28,000 packages of Bengals trading cards in the last two weeks.

The packages cost 99 cents with any food purchase, and include a coupon for a free medium drink.

The Carson Palmer card has drawn some press attention in his native California and even shown up on the auction site eBay, a Gold Star spokesman said.


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