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GCP Advocacy: A look back, a look ahead

The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s advocacy efforts are driven by our mission of mobilizing private-sector leadership, expertise, and resources from businesses of all sizes to create attractive economic conditions that create jobs, grow investment, and improve the prosperity of our region.

In 2016, we enjoyed some significant victories for the business community locally and throughout Ohio.  Below is a summary of some of those victories. Click here to read our blog with more information about these highlights and others.

Minimum wage: An initiative that proposed a Cleveland-only minimum wage increase was brought forward that would have phased in a $15 minimum wage (starting with $12 an hour in January 2018) while the rest of the state remained at $8.15. 

In December, state legislation—Senate Bill 331 passed that aimed to prohibit Cleveland and other political subdivisions from establishing minimum wage rates different from the rate required by state law.

Senate Bill 331 was signed by Governor Kasich on December 19, 2016. It will be effective 90 days from the Governor’s signature.  As a result of this work, petitioners announced they are suspending their effort, and we are no longer facing this issue.

Part-time workers: A separate Cleveland-only part-time workers’ initiative that was in line to appear on the November ballot also was eventually withdrawn by petitioners. 

The state legislature and Governor chose to protect employers from similar measures in the future by approving a provision, also found in Senate Bill 331, that grants a private employer the exclusive authority to govern matters concerning work hours, location of work, scheduling, and fringe benefits. 

The GCP and its partners advocated for state intervention and opposed these misguided local ballot issues because they would place Cleveland at a disadvantage.

Cleveland schools and income tax: Two issues backed by GCP — the Cleveland school levy renewal (Issue 108) and a 0.5 percent income tax increase (Issue 32) — won voter approval in November 2016 allowing the City to continue academic improvement and protect city services.

The GCP formed a working group of members to examine the city budget and the need for the income tax proposal.  We ultimately supported Issue 32, which is designed to help improve many city services including trash collection, pothole patching, demolition of vacant homes, and the hiring of more than 100 additional police and safety personnel, among others. Our member companies contributed over 95 percent of funds needed to support the effort.

The passage of Issue 108 will help to continue the work underway with the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools without raising taxes.

Cleveland schools have made steady progress on increased test scores, student attendance and graduation rates. The renewal of the levy, which generates about $77 million annually, provides the needed momentum for further improvements that will ultimately lead to more students who are college- and career-ready. 

Cuyahoga County inclusion: The GCP and its program, the Commission on Economic Inclusion, championed the passage of county legislation that will increase opportunities for small and minority-owned firms to do more work with the County.

County Council also passed a resolution that makes it an endorser of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Community Benefit Agreements on major construction projects. The GCP played a key role with the City of Cleveland and other core partners on the development of the MOU in 2013. Cuyahoga County is one of the newest partners to endorse this initiative.

Unemployment compensation reform: It is clear Ohio’s current unemployment system must be re-structured for it to be viable in future generations. In 2016, the GCP supported and helped secure legislation that allowed the state to pay federal debt a year ahead of schedule, saving Ohio job creators millions of dollars in 2017.

However, reforms still must be implemented that allow the unemployment fund to achieve a path toward solvency and the importance of this issue was highlighted by a GCP board member over the summer.

While the legislature ended its 2016 “lame duck” session without a long-term fix of the state's unemployment compensation system as planned, some progress could have been made to that end.  The plan, which the legislature approved via Senate Bill 235, calls for an actuary be hired to analyze various long-term solvency proposals going forward and directs the legislature to reach a permanent agreement by April 1, 2017.

New Market Tax Credits: Having the tools to advance physical development in Northeast Ohio is critical. The GCP played a lead role to secure needed reform to Ohio’s New Market Tax Credit program to align it with the federal program and allow mixed-use development projects. This is a growing trend in development happening in Cleveland’s major business and technology corridors.

At the federal level, the GCP supported Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA), its real estate and business development finance affiliate, on its winning application for a $60 million federal tax credit award. This is the largest federal NMTC award in Cleveland to-date.

State Capital Budget Bill: The GCP was successful in advocacy efforts on the state’s 2016 capital bill that brought more than $23 million to Cuyahoga County for core community projects, more than half of which were for projects that GCP directly championed. 

Of note is $3.5 million secured for the completion of the Public Square transformation project, which revitalized a key public space in our community. Another capital bill is expected in 2017/2018 and GCP will advocate for greater investment for transformational projects in our community.

Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC): Aside from voting, there are many ways you can contribute to Cleveland’s growth and momentum.  The Greater Cleveland Partnership Political Action Committee (GCP PAC) is an important advocacy tool in our efforts to ensure the collective voice of our members is heard in state and local government.

By contributing to the campaigns of officials who have demonstrated a desire to work with Northeast Ohio businesses for the good of the greater community, the GCP PAC helps advance policies and projects in line with the common goals of our members.

In 2016, the GCP carried out a strategy to double the dollar amount raised for the GCP PAC from the previous year.  If you are interested in increasing the strength of our region’s voice even further, please consider making a contribution to the GCP PAC and be a part of our movement.

A look ahead

The next few years will bring several changes to the political landscape at the local, state, and federal levels. (For the GCP’s comprehensive analysis of the 2016 General Election results and what it all could mean for Northeast Ohio businesses click here).

Later this month, the GCP will release its board-approved 2017-18 Public Policy Agenda. This document will serve as a road map for the top public policy issues that you have identified as important to you and your business.

Click to read more in our blog.

Diversity assessment to launch by end of January

The Commission on Economic Inclusion’s Employers Survey on Diversity, now called the Diversity and Inclusion Organization Assessment (D&I Assessment), is currently undergoing a final round of live testing and is on target to launch by the end of January.

Commission staff gathered feedback from nearly 50 stakeholders in the process of redesigning the Assessment and used those suggestions as the look, feel and content of the new tool was designed.

Companies that participate in the D&I Assessment will receive immediate feedback upon completion, and a customized individual report will be sent to every organization once the final data has been collected and aggregated.

For more information, please contact Scott Harrington, the D&I Assessment administrator, at 216.592-2213 or sharrington@gcpartnership.com. 

News from Hopkins Airport

The Greater Cleveland Air Service Demand Task Force, chaired by Lee Thomas, continues to work with Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) and City of Cleveland officials to help ensure that important nonstop markets are served.

Below are two CLE-related stories that emerged last week.

Cleveland names new director of port control
to oversee airport operations

Robert Kennedy, a former deputy manager at Atlanta's international airport and an aviation industry consultant, was sworn in last week by Mayor Frank Jackson as Cleveland's new director of port control.

He will oversee operations at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Burke Lakefront Airport and the Division of Harbors, which is responsible for improving piers and docks.

His previous experience includes working with Atlanta's Department of Aviation as interim general and deputy general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

He also held the positions of director of marketing and business development and director of marketing, public relations and intergovernmental affairs with the Department of Aviation.

Kennedy replaces interim director Fred Szabo, who was sworn in as the assistant director. (Photo by City of Cleveland)

Click to read more.

More nonstop service is coming to CLE


Last week, Allegiant and Spirit airlines announced new nonstop service at Hopkins International Airport. (CLE).

Allegiant announced new nonstop service to Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida (VPS) from CLE. The announcement included the offer of one-way fares on the new routes for as low as $42.*

The new seasonal flights begin May 12, 2017. The flights will operate twice weekly between CLE and VPS, providing Cleveland area travelers with their only nonstop flight option to northwest Florida. Flight days, times and the lowest fares can be found at Allegiant.com.

In addition, Spirit Airlines announced the addition of nonstop service from CLE to New Orleans beginning May 25.

*Allegiant’s press release provided this information about the introductory one-way fares: “Seats are limited. Price includes taxes and fees. Fares are one way and not available on all flights. Must be purchased by Jan. 13, 2017 for travel between May 12, 2017 and Aug. 15, 2017.

“Price displayed reflects purchase by debit card; purchase by credit card subject to surcharge not to exceed $8 each way per passenger. See Allegiant.com for details. For optional services and baggage fees, please visit Allegiant.com. Additional restrictions may apply.”

Events announced for 2017 Stokes Commemoration

Dozens of community events have already been scheduled for 2017 as part of a yearlong commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of Carl Stokes’ historic election as mayor of Cleveland.

The initiative honors Mayor Stokes and his brother, Congressman Louis Stokes, a founding co-chair of the Commission on Economic Inclusion, a program of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. It seeks to build on their legacy of advocacy and action by inspiring a new generation of Northeast Ohio leaders.

The commemoration will address a wide spectrum of issues through various activities during the year. An ever-expanding calendar of events for Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future can be found at www.stokes50cle.com.

Signature events include:
  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson discussing how Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes set the framework for the city’s long-term viability. “In Their Footsteps” will be held Wednesday, January 25 at the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).

  • A citywide “Day of Service” project in April focused on local military veterans. Mayor Stokes and Congressman Stokes both served in the U.S. Army.

  • A June performance at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre celebrating the achievements of Mayor Stokes using his speeches and a musical score. “Believe in Cleveland” will convey the aspirations of Stokes amidst the tempestuous backdrop of the time period.

  • The November opening of a permanent exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center featuring pictures, oral histories and interactive displays that examine the legacy of the Stokes brothers.
The year-long commemoration is spearheaded by Tri-C and includes the involvement of several past and current GCP Board members, elected officials and other leaders from the business, civic, nonprofit, education and philanthropic communities.