Sunday, March 21, 2004

Region, CEOs team up to play growth game


Local jobs, global economy targeted

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Promoting Greater Cincinnati to the global business world is a $5 million proposition.

That's the fund-raising goal for the Cincinnati USA Partnership, the regional economic development campaign that competes with others around the world to recruit and retain companies here.

chart "It gives us the resources for this piece of the puzzle to be in the game," said Michael Fisher, president of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, which administers the Partnership.

The chamber will unveil the new Partnership program Tuesday as it touts the success of its last five-year campaign, which it credits with creating 38,241 new jobs and garnering business investments of nearly $8.7 billion - 16.9 percent higher than the previous five-year period.

For the five years starting in 2004, the partnership has set a target goal of $22.5 million and a "stretch" goal of $25 million - $5 million more than the previous campaign. To this point, they've collected more than $20 million in cash and pledges.

The bulk of that money will go to marketing, which includes publicity, direct mailings, trade show presentations and personal calls on prospects. It also includes the Partnership's Internet site, www.cincinnatiusa.org.

About 20 percent will be split between the Minority Business Accelerator, aiming to create more growth opportunities for black entrepreneurs, and CincyTech USA, the region's high-tech advocacy group.

Supporters said the Partnership means more jobs, higher wages, more funds donated to cultural groups such as the Cincinnati Museum Center, and more people in Great American Ball Park to watch the Cincinnati Reds.

Their pitch to corporate investors, who fund the bulk of the campaign: The Partnership benefits every company and nearly every resident in the region.

"The stronger the economy is, and the more companies they get to move into the area, the more it strengthens my business," said Larry Sheakley, chairman of The Sheakley Group, a provider of back-office services based in Springdale.

Sheakley's company has pledged $50,000 a year over five years to the new Partnership.

The priorities of the new Partnership include patching what investors called some of its weaknesses: That the chamber focused more on itself than on marketing Greater Cincinnati to the outside world and that managers were not accountable to the hundreds of investors literally paying the bills.

chart Organizers say they'll market the region more globally, working to define an image and aggressively counter some of the negative publicity about Cincinnati's strained race relations.

While the goals for the just-completed campaign were jobs and investment, the new campaign will consider factors such as growth in wages, as well as goals set in specific industries.

"It's got to deliver hard results," said Jim Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "I think the pieces are there to do that."

Children's increased its Partnership investment to $50,000 a year, more than triple its investment in the previous five-year program, Anderson said.

Crowded field

Outsiders said the Partnership's increased budget puts Greater Cincinnati squarely in the game that regions around the country are playing. They're spending more money every year to recruit companies to their cities while also keeping the businesses they have.

The Charlotte Regional Partnership for example, spends about $2.5 million a year. In its last four fiscal years alone, the region has attracted $9.6 billion in new investments and created 61,600 new jobs, officials there said.

And the Indy Partnership in Indianapolis, with a $3 million annual budget, has created about 17,400 jobs during the same period.

"If you don't have an entity to do that, what you're doing is going backward," said Jeff Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council in Washington, D.C.

Fisher said the involvement of the region's top corporate CEOs and cooperation among all parts of the area will help distinguish Greater Cincinnati from competitor regions.

The Partnership is chaired by E.W. Scripps Co. CEO Ken Lowe while Dave Calhoun of GE Aircraft Engines is heading business attraction and George Schaefer of Fifth Third Bank is heading retention.

"If I truly did not believe we could move the needle, I wouldn't be chairing this," Lowe said.

Slow pipeline

Supporters have met some of their goals for the program set five years ago. They met the goal to reach 1,000 new investments and narrowly missed the goal of doubling the number of international companies.

With a stagnant national economy taking its toll, the Partnership fell far short of its goal of creating 90,000 new jobs.

Fisher pointed to the attraction of headquarters offices for Sara Lee Foods in 2000 and Think3 Inc. and Dunnhumby USA last year. Several companies also launched big expansions, including the sprawling Fifth Third Bank project in Madisonville.

And Northern Kentucky attracted several significant new projects, including a FedEx Ground distribution hub that will employ hundreds of workers.

Children's, for example, last year alone added 1,200 workers, to bring its work force to 7,500, and helped secure a $25.2 million Ohio grant for the Center for Computational Medicine in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati. That dovetailed with the Partnership's high-tech program, CincyTech USA.

"Would I recommend this region to anyone who wants to relocate a business? Absolutely," said Bob Baillie, site manager for International Paper, which has expanded twice since 1996 and now employs more than 800 workers in Miami Township.

SELLING CINCINNATI: How the 1998-2003 campaign fared

Five years ago, the Cincinnati USA Partnership set three main goals.

GOAL 1: 1,000 new business investments in the region.

RESULT: 1,023 new investments.

GOAL 2: 90,000 new jobs.

RESULT: 38,241 new jobs.

GOAL 3: Double the number of international companies in the region.

RESULT: A 70 percent increase, from a base of 168 companies in 1999 to 285 at the end of 2003.

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E-mail cpeale@enquirer.com

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