By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Information technology, specialized manufacturing, and arts and entertainment may be Hamilton County's next big areas of economic growth, according to research unveiled Monday by the county's Regional Planning Commission.
Already hot here, according to planner Christine Nolan's study: chemicals, food processing, and specialized business and financial services.
The findings are based on the cluster concept, a new way of looking at a community's economy. It pinpoints industries that have a critical mass in an area so that information can be used to attract and keep businesses that complement each other.
"It means everything won't be a pizza store," was Blue Ash Councilwoman Stephanie Stoller's take on the cluster concept, presented to local officials from across Hamilton County at a meeting Monday night at Winton Woods. "You want something that sells Cokes."
Nolan identified 10 clusters. The biomedical and information/communications industries are strong but shrinking in Hamilton County, suggesting officials might want to look at what those kinds of companies need to stay and grow, Nolan said.
Clusters that exist here but are neither strong nor growing include the transportation and specialized materials industries, she said.
"There are a lot of things you can actually do when you have this knowledge," she said.
Market to businesses that would complement existing businesses.
Invest in infrastructure such as utilities and roads that will help specific clusters.
Ensure that jobs and the labor force match.
Other areas that are using the cluster approach include Portland, St. Louis, Cleveland and San Diego, Nolan said. San Diego has been doing it for about a decade, she said, and the city recently ranked No. 1 for salary growth.
"It seems to be paying off," she said.
In Hamilton County, the cluster information was gathered by ZIP code, so each community can see what clusters are most prominent in its area. The effort was part of the Community Compass, an effort to develop a master plan for Hamilton County.
The planning commission plans to refine and update the cluster information regularly, Nolan said, and another organizations may apply the concept to neighboring counties.
"It's a good thing to step back and look at the trends - what should we be putting our investments in," said David Main, president of the Hamilton County Development Co., which helps the county attract and retain companies. "This will give us a chance to analyze where we're going and what we need to do to get there."
To learn more
The Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission will present its economic findings to the public July 24 at the Drake Center, 151 W. Galbraith Road, Hartwell. Reservations are required for this free event; telephone Julia Phillips at 946-4462. For more information about the findings, call senior planner Christine Nolan at 946-4487.
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