In The News

Cincinnati USA Partnership sees jump in economic development activity

Business Courier by Lucy May, Senior Staff Reporter/Associate Editor

Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 7:19am EDT


Just six months after changing its economic development strategy, the Cincinnati USA Partnership already is seeing dramatic results.

The partnership, the economic development arm of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, has had a 50 percent increase in inquiries from companies since August when it adopted its new approach, said Denyse Ferguson, the partnership's executive director.

The pipeline of economic development that the partnership is actively working on also has increased by 400 percent from early 2011 to early 2012, she said.

And while the partnership had one closed project in the first quarter of 2011, the organization has six closed projects so far in the first quarter of this year, Ferguson said.

"We have seen some pretty incredible changes in the growth trajectory," she said.

Ferguson will describe that success to stakeholders at the partnership's annual meeting at the Queen City Club Tuesday morning. The annual report to be distributed at that meeting says that the organization attracted 14 new businesses to the region in 2011, representing 1,967 jobs and $43.7 million in investment.

Ferguson said in an interview Monday that the strength of the partnership's new strategies come from its cluster-based approach, where the region is working to build on its strengths in biohealth, advanced manufacturing and consumer products and brand development, among other industries. The new approach also focuses on meaningful interactions with existing companies to help them grow. And it ensures that the private sector is involved in economic development conversations through leadership councils for each industry cluster and by making sure that some of the chamber's own economic development professionals have experience in the private sector.

"The new strategy is key to the goal. But in every strategy, the most important thing is execution," Ferguson said. "This partnership team certainly has to execute incredibly well. It's also about everyone in this community coming together."

The goals, after all, are ambitious. The partnership wants to help create 200,000 net new jobs in the Tri-State by 2020, garner $2 billion in investment per year and create jobs with an average wage of $50,000 a year.

"The goals don't necessarily scare me," Ferguson said. "The goals are not unattainable. We just really are going to have to go big time to hit them."

The partnership's new strategies were championed by Dave Dougherty, the former CEO of Convergys Corp. who led the organization as a volunteer for a year. The chamber announced late last month that Ferguson would take on the executive director role. Ferguson joined the chamber last August as vice president of economic development.

Dougherty has become volunteer chairman of the partnership's advisory board.

The partnership had a 2011 budget of about $7 million. That funding comes from state and local government sources as well as private contributions from local companies.