Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ohio Suburbs: Take Hand, Pat Self on Back

Ohio didn't take the top spot in the annual quest for recognition from Site Selection magazine for 2013, but Ohio suburbs can, nonetheless, pat themselves on the back again this year for helping Ohio achieve a top spot--#2 among states ranked on the number of projects.

Every March for 20+ years, Site Selection has reported out the list of the previous year's industrial and economy-impacting projects that meet the magazine's investment, jobs, and building space criteria.  Ohio has done well year after year against its competition and 2013 was no exception.

2013 was also no exception to the long-standing fact that the less-told, hidden part of the rest of the story is how much of that Ohio success is due to the success of her suburbs.  I've written on this topic in this column before. 

Unlike some states, Ohio is not dominated by a big city or a trio of big cities in either its political makeup or its development makeup.  The Site Selection magazine rankings have borne that out repeatedly.  Indeed, Ohio's economy is quite dependent on the success of its suburbs. 

In 2013, Ohio's government submitted 409 projects from its development agency-compiled private investment survey to help compete for the ranking.  Of those, 72% (293 projects) were from the smaller counties and cities in Ohio.  Said another way, Ohio's three most-populous counties--Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton--combined to bring in 28% of the deals.

This trend is nothing new.  The track looks like this for the last six years showing what percentage of projects came from Ohio's smaller counties:

2013: 72%
2012: 74%
2011: 68%
2010: 71%
2009: 73%
2008: 74%

Pretty consistent.

Further, 26 of the 27 projects in Ohio with $50 million or more in capital investment were also in the smaller areas of Ohio.  Almost 99% of the capital investment from the top 27 mega projects came from areas of Ohio outside of Columbus, Cleveland, or Cincinnati.

When it comes to manufacturing-oriented projects, the strength of Ohio's suburbs shines even more.  The analysis shows that in 2013, fully 94% (199) of the 212 manufacturing projects on the private investment list came from places other than Columbus, Cleveland, or Cincinnati.  Ohio's suburbs and smaller cities led the state forward in this core segment of Ohio's economy again this year.

More than giving recognition to the under-recognized suburbs, I write this column to make a key point.  Where would Ohio be without its suburbs? 

Ohio policy makers need to invest in success and embrace the suburbs.  We all need to work hard to never see the day when Ohio's suburbs aren't the engine of economic development success that they have consistently been. 

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