360 Fireworks Party

Thursday, December 15, 2011


by Michael Monks 
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Patrick Ewing, interim economic
development director in Cincinnati
Just one day before he retires from his current job as interim economic development director for the City of Cincinnati, Patrick Ewing addressed members of an organization he helped found and led during its first seven years, the Covington Business Council. Just a couple months removed from Cincinnati's luring of Omnicare and Nielsen  (and the hundreds of jobs and $1.5 million in payroll taxes) from Covington, Ewing expressed sympathy but not regret. "When I told them (in Cincinnati) that I was speaking to a group in Covington today, they told me to wear a bullet-proof vest," Ewing joked. "I didn't do this on my own, but I offer no apologies and no excuses."
Covington business owners await speech
(with Holy Cross football coach
& captains in foreground)
Ewing described symptoms of the race-to-the-bottom economic policies in America that force cities and states to compete with each other by offering large corporations tax incentives even when no net new jobs are created. "Governments are put in a position where they have to play the game," he said. "If incentives are out there, a business would be a fool not take advantage of them. (But) there's no good long-term benefits if we keep moving jobs across the river. We have to work together to get off this merry-go-round. Incentives must be focused on net new job creation."
There are no new net jobs created by Omnicare or Nielsen in their move across the river, despite claims to the contrary by Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich and Democrat Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. In fact, Omnicare is only required to create a few hundred new jobs over the next ten years for its gift of $20 million that taxpayers will never see for public projects. "It's not just Cincinnati versus Covington," Ewing continued. "We just lost Chiquita to North Carolina. It's state versus state and in this economy it's gotten more vicious."
Ewing suggested that local governments focus more on the next generation of citizens and on those small businesses that create jobs and innovation within a community. "We have to reach out to those coming behind us inheriting our bad decisions, our debt," he said. "It's important that we reach out to young professionals. Kids in high school even need to be reached out today. They have great ideas on how to run a business. We have to encourage them to stay in the region or to come to the region"
Ewing's urging of more public and private partnerships to achieve these goals is reflected on his resume. He helped found the Covington Business Council in the private sector in 1985 before being lured to Cincinnati himself in that city's economic development department where he has worked since 1992. "Our commonalities far outweigh our differences," he said of Covington and Cincinnati, addressing shared concerns of an airport that must attract more international flights in order for the region to be a global competitor and of the aging infrastructure on both sides of the river.
"Our sidewalks were designed for horses and buggies and now we have to ask 'where do we put all these cars'," he said. "We have to go back to the concept of light rail from the airport to the River Cities out to Warren County," Today an important announcement was being made in Cincinnati that that city was awarded a federal grant to lengthen its planned streetcar from The Banks to Clifton. "We have to link where the jobs are. We can't do that with the automobile." 
Ewing also lauded the importance of education and arts in a thriving community. "Arts and education are on the top of survey lists by CEOs (looking for a home for their businesses)," he said. "Arts are our soul. We have to support them and create infrastructure to have arts thrive here."
Following his speech, Ewing was asked a few questions from the audience that related to the incentives criticism he offered. He shared a story of how he led the CBC when the first RiverCenter tower was planned and opened. The first tenant was Jacor, a media company that moved into the building due to incentives and when those incentives ran out, the company moved to Cincinnati for more incentives. The incentive game, Ewing said, is even more precarious when economies take a turn downward. "At the front end, everything's rosy and then the lights go out and companies try to renegotiate when they can't make the new job requirements." Ewing's last day on the job is tomorrow after forty years in the field.

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