incinnati-area natives increasingly appreciate their region’s advantages and the global arena in which the city competes for new investment — and jobs. Eager to differentiate the Queen City from comparably sized metros in the Midwest, Cincinnati leaders are turning up the volume on the important ways companies can succeed there like in no other location. Critical mass in some key areas, like corporate citizenship and branding expertise, is a key differentiator.
Others: The Cincinnati region is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, including Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, Kroger and Ashland, Inc.; 25 higher education institutions supply the manufacturing and service-industry jobs that fuel the region’s economy; and Cincinnati has risen in Site Selection’s Top Metros ranking from 8th place in 2012 to 6th place in 2013 (see page 98) for new and expanding commercial projects in the 1-million-or-more population category.
City and regional leaders are eager to talk about where the region is heading, especially given the strengths the region is capitalizing on, the diversity of industries in the Cincinnati region, the workforce attributes unique to the area and the quality of life investors will find when they arrive.
Natives returning to Cincinnati will find exciting new urban developments, including the Banks, a new, mixed-use development located between the city’s Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Reds, respectively, on the banks of the Ohio River. A public-private partnership project, the Banks is “the new front door to the City of Cincinnati and a development that people around the country are learning from,” says Matt Davis, interim executive director of the Cincinnati USA Partnership, which works in partnership with regional economic development partners and is the S.W. Ohio JobsOhio Network Partner. Over the Rhine is another reinvigorated neighborhood that is attracting creative-class enterprises, business startups and popular new dining and retail offerings.
No other US metro can claim to have as many professionals per capita working in the “branding space,” notes Davis, referring to people working in advertising, consumer marketing, data analytics and related fields. Cincinnati is home to about 60,000 such professionals, about a third of whom work for consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. “We know products, we know brands, and we know how to sell them here,” says Davis, adding that this built-in, local expertise has been instrumental in attracting foreign direct investment to the region. It gives companies the confidence that they can find branding and marketing expertise locally. In fact, the Partnership facilitates such connections with events designed to help companies identify business contacts in the branding universe for future marketing assignments.
Site seekers will find cities and towns outside the Cincinnati city limits that are doing the same thing the region is doing, but on a smaller scale. Reading, in Hamilton County, for example, has been building on its life sciences hub (1,500 employees at five major companies, available land and workforce) by prepping and marketing a 14-acre site — the Reading Life Sciences Campus (LSC) Expansion — that when built out can accommodate 150,000 sq. ft. of new lab and office space. All utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer and telecommunications) are in place at the site, as is rail on the west side of the property.
“The site is zoned for research and development, and we feel it is worth our time and effort in the long run to be patient and forego interest in the site from more traditional manufacturing companies, including the high-end payroll associated with those jobs,” says Linda Fitzgerald, Reading’s economic development director, and member of the Cincinnati USA Partnership’s workforce development and BioHealth cluster committees.
“Our five existing life sciences companies have been our strongest advocates for expanding the hub, because these companies already have partnerships with each other,” says Fitzgerald. “They are very supportive of our efforts to add an additional 14 acres to the region’s space inventory for life sciences companies. It may not level the playing field relative to locations on the East and West Coasts, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
In 2001, Aventis Pharmaceuticals donated 23 acres and 360,000 sq. ft. of facilities it would no longer need in Reading to the University of Cincinnati, which conducts genetic research at the location today. The following year, Patheon Pharmaceuticals acquired the rest of Aventis’ Reading operation, retaining more than 500 biopharma jobs.
Ideal Spots for Medical Offices
The Village of Evendale is in the heart of the Cincinnati area’s aerospace corridor along I-75, anchored by GE Aviation’s world headquarters. Evendale’s location north of the central business district, where the population is migrating, is the Greater Cincinnati area’s sweet spot, says Jack Cameron, administrator/economic development director. “This central regional location puts Evendale in the heart of customer and employee centers.”
As important as GE Aviation and aerospace are to Evendale’s economy, the Village is hoping to diversify beyond aerospace to “the office sector and specifically the medical office sector.” Cameron plans to build on the successes of the TriHealth Evendale Hospital, which performs more than 2,000 surgical procedures per month and growing, and also the Evendale Healthcare Center. Both facilities in the Village have received significant outside investment of late, which indicates the time is right for the Village to capitalize on the medical office momentum.
"We know products, we know brands, and we know how to sell them here."— Matt Davis, interim executive director, Cincinnati USA Partnership
“Aerospace and industrial are robust and healthy sectors for the Village, and we think the office market can help positively diversify our tax base,” says Cameron. The Village is leveraging some properties they have land banked to bring to market and advance their hopes to push the medical office investing in Evendale.
“We don’t want to be a one trick pony, and with our central regional location, attractive tax structure, and building momentum we think the time is now to use our properties to capture more of the medical office sector,” states Cameron. “Our property could also be used for amenities that office users need, and we recognize that may be a logical step to have this type of investment continue,” added Cameron.
Green Energy and Data Centers
One of the City of Hamilton’s advantages is its locally operated utilities and ability to make available renewable energy, particularly hydroelectric power, at a competitive cost. In 2015, says Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s director of economic development, 70 percent of the City’s energy will be green, renewable energy. “Hamilton is able to offer companies 100 percent renewable energy without the premium price typically associated with renewable,” he points out. The City-owned natural gas, water and fiber optics are also attractive to companies, he adds.
This energy infrastructure makes Hamilton an ideal location for technology companies — especially high-energy users like data centers. “Because of its ample and redundant electric capacity, superior reliability and ability to provide electricity at or below market rate, Hamilton has been able to keep rates competitive and stable,” Gunderson maintains. “Because of its diverse energy sources that will include over 70 percent clean hydroelectric power not subject to wide market fluctuations, Hamilton projects stable rates for years to come.”
Hamilton is home to Vora Technology Park, which Gunderson says “offers data centers unparalleled redundancies in a state-of-the-art facility. Vora Technology Park, with 125,000 square feet of Class A office space available, was built with occupant comfort and data center fault tolerance in mind.”
And it has a nearby talent pool: Vora Technology Park is adjacent to Miami University Hamilton, a regional campus of Miami University. Miami University Hamilton offers both associate and bachelor degrees, including Engineering Technology and Computer and Information Technology programs.
“We’re getting a lot better at telling our story,” says Matt Davis. “We have a tremendous advantage in a number of areas, with branding being a key differentiator for us, and also our location and international airport and diversity of industries. We want to be the place people think of to start or grow their business regardless of size of industry.