Friday, April 13, 2001

Butler offers $3M to attract company

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County is dangling $3 million in front of the parent of Mercy Hospital Hamilton to persuade the company to move its headquarters from Blue Ash to Hamilton.

        Two of the three county commissioners, Mike Fox and Chuck Furmon, signed a letter this week notifying Mercy Health Partners that the county is offering a $3 million inducement grant.

        The commissioners want Mercy Health Partners to move its headquarters into the Mercy Hospital facility that will be closed by June. The closing will cost Hamilton 600 jobs and $400,000 in annual income tax revenue.

        “We're just saying, "We'll help you remodel the building to help you facilitate your move to our community,'” Mr. Fox said Thursday.

        He said the $3 million would come from the county's general fund, but he doesn't know yet exactly what accounts the money will be taken from.

        “We had to move quickly,” Mr. Fox said. “We'll work out the details of how we'll put that together.”

        He said if necessary, he would consider raising taxes to secure the $3 million.

        Commissioner Courtney Combs adamantly opposes the inducement grant.

        “The county doesn't have the money,” he said. “I don't want to take general fund money and put the county in a financial bind.”

        Mr. Fox said the investment will be worth it. He said the 800 jobs Hamilton would gain with the headquarters' move would mean $10 million in income tax revenue over 20 years.

        But Debbie Copeland-Bloom, spokeswoman for Mercy Health Partners, said the headquarters actually would bring 400 to 500 jobs, not 800, the number the commissioners have been using.

        “That's a big difference,” Mr. Combs said, when he learned of the discrepancy. “The other commissioners need to get their facts straight before they go out pledging money to organizations.”

        Ms. Copeland-Bloom said moving to the soon-to-be-vacant Hamilton hospital is one of several options Mercy Health Partners is considering.

        Another is moving into a building under construction on Alliance Road in Blue Ash. Mercy Health Partners' offices are split among four buildings in Blue Ash. The company wants to consolidate them.


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