Last week, I spent two and a half days in Cincinnati, Ohio as the guest of Source Cincinnati, an independent, multi-year national social and media relations initiative that works to enhance perceptions of Cincinnati as a world-class Midwestern region. I met with Julie Calvert, executive director, during my visit, but my personal guide and host was Paul Fox, vice president of Strategic Initiatives at Procter & Gamble and "Executive on Loan" to Source Cincinnati for a year. 

From Fox, I learned that Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio and had such interesting nicknames as "Porkopolis" in the past because it was the largest pork packing center in the world and the “Queen City of the West,” for its ideal location on the Ohio River and its rich culture and heritage of a predominantly German population which settled Cincinnati in the late 1700s.

After arriving late Tuesday afternoon, Fox and I had dinner with David Linger of TechSolve, and Scott Broughton, center director for Advantage Kentucky Alliance at the WKU Center for R&D at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. TechSolve is a 30-year old consulting firm that is a State of Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partner (MEP) affiliate, and Advantage Kentucky Alliance (AKA) is the MEP for Kentucky. Linger just took over the reins as president and CEO on September 1, 2016 after Gary Conley retired from 20 years of service.

Linger, said "There are about 2,500 manufacturers in the Ohio region of metropolitan Cincinnati, and Cincinnati used to be known as the "Machine Tool Capital of the U. S.", but very few machine tool companies exist today, including its most well-known machine tool company, Cincinnati Milacron," after its machine tool line was sold to Unova. TechSolve provides manufacturing and health care consulting. It has a focus and strength in process improvement, machining and innovation -- applying these skills to help businesses find long-term solutions and promote problem-solving cultures.

Broughton said, "AKA is a not-for-profit partnership that provides assistance and training to help manufacturers of all sizes grow, improve their manufacturing and business strategies and processes, adopt advanced technologies, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve competitiveness. Manufacturing in Eastern Kentucky was mainly related to the coal mining industry, and two-thirds of the companies have gone out of business. We have focused on helping the remaining manufacturers to understand their core competencies to market to new industries, such as aviation and automotive. Our services include: business growth services, continuous improvement services and workforce solution services."

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast with Laura Brunner, president/CEO, and Gail Paul, director of Communication Strategy of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. She told me that the Port Authority was established by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 2001 and is empowered to take a leadership position in regional economic development. It is a quasi-public agency that operates collaboratively with dozens of economic development, community and corporate partners. The Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, which is a 226.5-mile port district located in 15 counties, is the busiest inland port district in the nation, by annual freight tonnage (about 50 million tons).

Brunner presented me with a report titled "Manufacturing in the Greater Cincinnati Region,” which explained as background, "The Port Authority leverages its infrastructure strengths and development-related expertise to design and execute complex projects to improve property value, catalyze private investment and promote job creation.”

I was astounded when she told me, "The Cincinnati region has lost 67% of its manufacturing jobs." The report states, "Manufacturing was a primary component of Cincinnati's economy until its peak in 1969 when 43% of the workforce in Hamilton County was employed in manufacturing jobs. Today, lower-wage service-providing jobs far outnumber manufacturing jobs by about 7:1…From 1969-2015, the number of people employed in manufacturing decreased from 146,000 to 48,000."

She said that the Port Authority Board of Directors has established a vision to transform Cincinnati to prosperity by 2022 through "repositioning undervalued properties and re-building neighborhoods." The report she gave me states that the strategies for success are:

  • "Industrial Revitalization – redevelopment of 500 acres of underutilized industrial land along key transportation corridors
  • Neighborhood Revitalization – transform 10 communities for lasting impact, including residential properties and commercial business districts
  • Public Finance Innovation – cultivate a nationally-recognized public finance program that supports economic and community development efforts

The projected Return on Investment for these strategies is: 

In June 2015, the PGCDA Board approved establishment of the industrial and neighborhood strategy, development of internal resources, communication strategy, and the financing and fundraising plan to support the strategies."

The report states, "The proposed redevelopment of approximately 2,000 acres of industrial land through Hamilton County for manufacturing uses will have a considerable impact on the Greater Cincinnati Region."  

The first sites for the redevelopment pilot program have been selected, and the first funds have been obtained for acquisition of land parcels, demolition/remediation of existing buildings, and site preparation. The first site is assembled and is scheduled to open in 2017.