Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Group sets goals to revitalize region

Targets based on planner's findings

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Urban planner Michael Gallis presents his report on the Cincinnati area Monday at the Aronoff Center.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        A push for regional thinking in four areas will be the focus of Metropolitan Growth Alliance efforts in the next year, the group's co-chairman said Monday.

        The group — a coalition of business people and heads of local institutions working to encourage more cooperation across the region's borders — has targeted issues dealing with transportation, education, the urban core and quality of life as important to the region's future.

        “In my view, the work of the alliance does not involve large amounts of money or political issues,” said William Butler, president of Corporex Cos. Inc. and co-chairman of the alliance. The group's job is “changing the mind-set of the community. The rest will take care of itself.”

        Mr. Butler revealed the agenda Monday at the end of a presentation at the Aronoff Center by urban planner Michael Gallis, who was hired by the alliance to review the region's assets and challenges. More than 1,000 turned out for the late-afternoon session.

        The alliance will take the show on the road. It will distribute 20,000 copies of Mr. Gallis' 24-page “resource book,” present the findings in public meetings around the region, and seek the community's involve ment in finding solutions to a range of problems, Mr. Butler said.

To obtain copies of the Greater Cincinnati Metro Region Resource Book, prepared by Michael Gallis & Associates of Charlotte, N.C., visit http://www.gccc.com/gallis/. To view the PDF files, you'll need the program Acrobat Reader, available at no cost for both Windows and Macintosh at http://www.adobe.com.
        He addd that the alliance will also work to support existing initiatives, such as the Partnership for Greater Cincinnati, an effort led by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce to promote a range of regional economic development issues. Other efforts will focus on riverfront development and regional coalitions of local university presidents, chambers of commerce, arts organizations and economic development officials.

        But Mr. Butler added that the alliance will push to build community consensus for new initiatives based on Mr. Gallis' findings. These include:

        • Development of a broad transportation plan tying together air, rail and highway networks.

        • Revitalizing the urban core, with groups such as Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the Urban League.

        • Improving education. Efforts involve supporting collaboration among the area's colleges and universities, and finding ways for the universities to strengthen K-12 education.

        • Addressing quality-of-life issues, such as air and water quality.

        In an hour-long presentation, Mr. Gallis summed up his report, calling for greater regional cooperation on issues such as economic development, government fragmentation, expansion of infrastructure, air and water quality and preservation of the region's historical assets.

        Those attending were generally warm to the idea of greater cooperation regionally.

        “It's very simple: You can't have a great university continue to grow in a dying city,” said Joseph Steger, president of the University of Cincinnati. He said the university can't attract students or faculty under those conditions, and if the city can't attract new companies, then the university will see contributions fall.

        That's not news to him, Mr. Steger said, but the idea of collaboration with other colleges and universities in the region didn't come forward until the growth alliance began its work with Mr. Gallis.

        Edgar Smith, a Cincinnati businessman and member of the Cincinnatus Association, said the report lacks a good examination of makeup of the region's population.

        “The use of human capital is critically important,” he said, building on comments following Mr. Gallis' talk that the city needs to include and utilize its African-American and growing Hispanic populations.

        “There's a lot of talent out there. Unless it's utilized, we won't be as great as we can be,” Mr. Smith said.

        David Main, president of the Hamilton County Development Co., said the region is probably at a crossroads in terms of economic development. Sometimes, it's just “dumb luck” when a small company explodes into a big one, but the region needs to set the table for that kind of growth to occur, he said.

        Julie Fay, president of the Merchants of Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, said she hopes the report “will be the inspiration to move forward.” She said in other cities, support of the arts seems to be broad-based, but “here, we sort of sit back and wait for the traditional monied folks to take care of things,” she said.

        The Gallis report points out the need to support the urban core, but Ms. Fay said she hopes that includes Newport, Covington and areas north of downtown up to UC.

        Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey said, “The message to me is very clear: We have a set of assets that we can build on to not only make this a great city, but a great region.”

        He said he hopes the resource book becomes a reference for planning. “I hope a lot more people get the resource book, put aside parochial interests and start focusing on where we need to go as a region.”

        The delivery of the resource book Monday essentially ends Mr. Gallis' relationship with the growth alliance. Jim Wuenker, senior vice president for economic development for the chamber of commerce and a member of the alliance's planning committee, said there's been no decision yet whether to retain Mr. Gallis for future involvement.


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