Sunday, July 20, 2003

Convergys deal is a defining moment

By James Orr
Guest columnist

James Orr

A defining moment is often surrounded by debate. Last week there was discussion about what it takes to keep and attract good jobs in Cincinnati, including those at Convergys.

It is clear this is an important priority of our mayor, city manager, city council and numerous other civic and business groups - as well as Gov. Bob Taft, the Ohio Department of Development and the elected officials who represent Cincinnati in Columbus.

The state has recognized that the economic benefits far outweigh the costs of development packages to attract and retain businesses over the long term. Basic economics have consistently proved that for every 100 new jobs, 90 additional jobs are created to support them. The state's Third Frontier initiative to increase the number of high-tech jobs is a successful example of investment to ensure Ohio's vitality in high-growth, "magnet" industries like technology and biosciences.

Cities and businesses face challenges every day in finding the right mix of people, facilities and infrastructure to gain customers and create new jobs. Convergys and the State of Ohio successfully addressed this challenge. And it is one that we and the City of Cincinnati are attempting to work through together.

Convergys was born and raised in Cincinnati. We don't want to leave downtown, which we have worked hard to support through involvement in the arts, education, human services and other important endeavors. Cincinnati is where our families live and play, and a city that has been good for us and our nearly 2,000 employees who work here.

Some citizens have asked why government should invest in helping companies keep and create jobs downtown. These are good and logical questions. Let me set the record straight. While proposals have set tax credits and grants over 15 years to Convergys from the state and city at about $200 million, Convergys' investment in and contributions to the city, state and county far exceed that amount.

Specifically Convergys will pay $475 million in state, county and city taxes over the 15-year period. Convergys will also invest about $125 million over the first three years in downtown Cincinnati.

Further, to get these credits we must also double our downtown employees from 1,450 to 2,900. If we meet these goals, we would also need to invest an additional $60 million to $75 million in new office space to accommodate our larger downtown workforce.

It adds up to 1,450 more jobs in the city, more money for neighborhoods, education, police and services for the people of Cincinnati, a downtown that is more vital, and a city and state on the move. This adds up to a good investment for Cincinnati and for Convergys, and a positive step to helping our city and region grow at a critical time in its history.

Convergys is prepared to make a huge commitment to Cincinnati. But the debate can't continue forever, and critical decisions must be made next week. It is a defining moment.

James Orr is chairman of the Convergys Corporation.

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