The Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) mobilizes private sector 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. As a non-partisan, member-driven organization we work to advance the policy priorities that are important to Northeast Ohio’s business community. Thanks to the leadership of our members, GCP’s Advocacy team achieved significant success in 2018.
This past spring, the GCP Board offered formal support for statewide Issue 1, which creates a more bi-partisan, public process for drawing U.S. Congressional districts. Voters overwhelmingly passed the measure. Issue 1 offers rules limiting the extent to which counties, municipal corporations, and townships can be split between districts; the City of Cleveland is to remain whole within its district.
County Health & Human Services
GCP supported a two-year renewal of the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services (HHS) levy, Issue 9, which passed with nearly 73 percent of the vote. The HHS levies play an important role in ensuring there is a social safety net for children, individuals and families in need. While the passage of Issue 9 did not represent a tax increase, GCP leadership will continue to actively work with Cuyahoga County to determine the structure of HHS levies going forward.
Cuyahoga County Consumer Initiative
Legislation was approved last year by Cuyahoga County Council related to the enforcement of consumer protection laws with changes made, at GCP members’ urging, to the initiative. Amendments were included in the measure that bring the statute of limitations on such cases in-line with the Ohio Attorney General’s parameters and limit the possibility of a business being scrutinized by the County and the Attorney General simultaneously. GCP worked with these parties on specific provisions that were included in the final ordinance that aim to eliminate undue burdens on the business community and increase accountability. The purpose of this collective work was to help ensure the ordinance mirrors state law and is concurrent with the state’s consumer affairs efforts, without needlessly duplicating services that impede economic stability and growth in Cuyahoga County.
Cuyahoga County Industry Sector Partnership Initiative
GCP supported the passage of legislation that would provide funding for the creation of industry sector partnerships in manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. This legislation is an outgrowth of a public-private collaborative of workforce development organizations, including GCP, who have been working for the past two years to develop a strategy for industry sector partnerships in Northeast Ohio. This work is a direct outgrowth of GCP’s strategic plan, ForwardCLE. Industry sector partnerships are a nationally recognized best practice that is effective in building a strong talent pipeline for key industries.
Most employers recognize the importance and necessity of local rules and regulations. However, some GCP business owners – particularly small businesses – have found local processes to be challenging related to licenses and certificates. In 2018, GCP small business leaders appeared before Cleveland City Council to discuss how we may be able to provide enhanced services to businesses that encounter these challenges.
RTA Operational Improvement Taskforce
With the support of the GCP Board of Directors and Government Affairs Council, GCP launched an operational improvement taskforce with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) to explore ways in which the transit system could improve operations, reduce costs, and maximize revenue. Ultimately, this work would support GCRTA in developing a new vision for public transit in Greater Cleveland that is responsive to the needs of current and future riders and major employers. The formation of this taskforce comes at a time when GCRTA is projecting a budget shortfall in the next few years that could create the need for additional revenue.
State & Federal
State Capital Bill
Thirteen of the 15 projects on GCP’s recommended state capital bill list received funding support in the 2017-18 capital bill process. Places with Impact, a key tenant of GCP’s strategic plan (ForwardCLE), was a major theme for GCP’s recommended projects as the organization continues development efforts to improve access to Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, downtown development, and transformational neighborhood projects. The lead project that received support was Phase II of Restoring Irishtown Bend, which will provide continued investment to stabilize the bulkheads along the Cuyahoga River.
Anti-Predatory Business Claims
Legislation GCP supported, HB 271, responds to the issue of individuals filing predatory claims against businesses for technical violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). GCP supported the bill because it seeks to protect ADA’s original intent, which is to provide accessible facilities. GCP unequivocally supports the ADA’s mission and charge. In addition, HB 271 strives to prevent abuse of the ADA, particularly in instances where demand letters are sent to businesses for minor and unnoticeable violations of the act. In November, GCP offered proponent testimony on the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was approved by the legislature without one dissenting vote and signed by the Governor and the bill will become law in March.
The 2017 tax reform bill signed into law by President Trump included a provision that created the Opportunity Zone program. This program allows investors to defer capital gains from the sale or exchange of property by investing the proceeds in an Opportunity Fund. The fund would invest these assets in businesses within an Opportunity Zone, which are qualifying census tracts that have, among other criteria, a poverty rate of at least twenty percent. Given GCP’s expertise and leadership in the New Market Tax Credit program, the organization played a leading role in convening countless partners, gaining consensus, and recommending Opportunity Zones in Cuyahoga County to the Kasich Administration. The majority of these zones were accepted, in prioritized order, by the State of Ohio and sent to the U.S. Treasury to be certified as Opportunity Zones.
Cybersecurity Safe Harbor
GCP helped craft legislation – the Data Protection Act – that effectively became law in November providing a legal safe harbor to covered entities that implement a specified cybersecurity program. The purpose is to create an affirmative defense to a cause of action sounding in tort related to a data breach and it would apply to all businesses that include and comply with certain cybersecurity frameworks. GCP strongly supported the opportunity for covered entities that implement a specified cybersecurity program because the legislation provides an incentive to encourage businesses to achieve a higher level of cybersecurity through voluntary action. The Data Protection Act is not a mandate and it would not create a minimum cybersecurity standard. This sound initiative encourages more businesses to properly protect their business ventures, their workforce, and those with whom they do business. Language was also included in the cyber legislation described above that generally states:
- "A record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be … an electronic record.”
- “A signature that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be … an electronic signature.”
Protecting Federal & Defense Assets
GCP played a lead role in two state convenings, led by Congressman Mike Turner and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, focused on strengthening Ohio’s federal and defense assets. As the lead advocate for NASA Glenn Research Center, GCP provided thought leadership on ways to maximize congressional and economic development support for NASA and other critical assets in Northeast Ohio and the state.
Energy Efficiency Standards
In 2018, GCP released a statement related to our members’ pragmatic approach to the future of Ohio’s energy efficiency benchmarks. We will continue to encourage state leaders to continue policies that provide incentives for utilities to offer businesses opportunities to leverage energy efficiency programming and foster growth. GCP also recognizes it is equally important utilities are provided a level of elasticity – specifically to meet state mandated energy efficiency standards. The debate on this issue will likely continue in 2019, but our position continues to situate GCP in a way that allows for flexibility and for our members to play a unique leadership role.
Medical Marijuana Employer Protections
While the Greater Cleveland Partnership remained neutral on the initiative that passed two years ago legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio, our members did advocate passionately for specific employer protections that remain in the law. The employer protections, among other things, are designed to defend an employer’s HR policies, drug screening policies, and procedures. And, the Governor appointed a GCP Board member to Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee; the role is to protect employers’ rights as regulatory proceedings on medical marijuana take place in Ohio throughout the implementation of the program. In 2018, Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee met nine times in Columbus. As Ohio implements the program, GCP will continue to represent the business community’s interests.
National Small Business Association (NSBA)
Celebrating more than 80 years representing America’s small-business owners, the National Small Business Association is a staunchly non-partisan organization with members in every state and every industry in the nation. NSBA is a strong partner of GCP/COSE, among other organizations, on public policy issues that are importance to the business community. The NSBA Board of Trustees met late last year and discussed its intention to name a GCP member NSBA Board Chair in 2019. In addition, several GCP small business leaders traveled to Washington to participate in the NSBA Small Business Congress – an event in which leaders from across the country discuss, debate, and vote on NSBA’s federal policy priorities for the next two years. As a lead-up to the event, NSBA held regional listening sessions to gather grassroots input and insight into the issues most challenging to America’s small businesses. In October, GCP hosted one out of three of these sessions nationwide.
The Impact of NAFTA and Tariffs
2018 was a complex year for trade policy. With changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and growing tariffs on goods like steel and aluminum, Northeast Ohio’s business community had many questions and concerns with how these changing policies would impact their operations. GCP partnered with Senator Rob Portman to host a roundtable discussion for GCP member companies to talk with the Senator directly about the challenges their businesses were facing in the new trade environment.
Occupational License Review
SB 255 would require the legislature to review occupational licensing boards regarding their sunset and the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission could perform assessments of occupational licensing bills and state regulation of occupations. Licensing in Ohio has resulted in business people spending hundreds, in some cases, thousands of dollars to earn a license to begin their career. This can be damaging – particularly for small businesses – for entry into the market and competition. After careful due diligence and meetings with the bill sponsors and upon presenting this legislation to our members, GCP supported SB 255. GCP crafted and provided proponent testimony. The bill passed the House by a vote of 55-27, the Senate concurred 24-8, and the Governor signed the bill.
Regulatory Fairness Board
A GCP volunteer leader who has spent decades helping small businesses, was officially named to the prestigious Regulatory Fairness Board as a representative from Region V, which covers Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Regulatory Fairness Board is a part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of the National Ombudsman. The purpose of the Regulatory Fairness Board is to assist small businesses in coping with overly burdensome federal regulations, providing grassroots feedback and advice to the National Ombudsman on matters relating to compliance with federal agencies. The Regulatory Fairness Board is strictly non-partisan and seeks your input. Fill out this form and tell the SBA about your federal regulatory challenges. The information will be directed to the appropriate agency and it will be used in the planning of upcoming Regulatory Reform Roundtables.
Events & Initiatives
COSE Day at the Capitol
On March 13, our members and staff participated in another successful edition of COSE Day at the Capitol in Columbus, a signature small business advocacy event. The day’s agenda provided entrepreneurs and the region’s small business community an exclusive opportunity to connect with elected leaders and key decision-makers on the issues – ranging from crowdfunding to workforce development – that are of primary importance to so many of our members. The timing of this year’s event allowed our membership to share their experiences and meet directly with fourteen members of the legislature and their policy advisors. Each moment allowed attendees to influence the legislature’s deliberations on key public policy issues that directly impact small businesses ability to succeed.
Ohio’s Innovation Economy
GCP joined the Ohio Chamber Research Foundation and other metro chambers across the State of Ohio to commission a report that would provide an assessment of Ohio’s innovation economy and recommendations for growth. This work culminated July 2018 with the release of Ohio BOLD: A Blueprint for Accelerating the Innovation Economy. This work will play an important role in GCP’s efforts with state leaders to continue the work of the Ohio Third Frontier.
The DC Fly-In provides GCP members with an opportunity to engage directly with Ohio’s congressional delegation and other federal public officials throughout a series of workshops and events over the course of two days in Washington D.C. Local government partners from Northeast Ohio also have the opportunity to hear directly from agencies about federal resources that they can leverage for their communities. In 2018, attendees heard from nearly two dozen elected officials, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Congressman Dave Joyce, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, and Congressman Jim Renacci. Attendees also heard from federal agency and White House staff on key policy developments.
GCP Comprehensive Tax Analysis
GCP conducted a comprehensive tax analysis – a study to examine Cuyahoga County’s tax competitiveness and investments compared to similar markets in the Great Lakes region. This study was called for in GCP’s strategic plan, ForwardCLE. The results will be shared in 2019. Feedback from our members, partners, and stakeholders was and will continue to be a key part of the process.
Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition
The Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition is a national collective of chambers of commerce across the Great Lakes region that jointly advocate on core policy issues, including water quality, immigration reform, trade, and transportation and infrastructure. GCP is a founding member of this coalition. In 2018, the organizational assumed staff leadership of the coalition’s work.
GCP Political Action Committee (GCP PAC)
There are many ways our members can ensure their voice and the voice of the business community is heard throughout government. The GCP PAC, is a non-partisan, unified voice for businesses of all sizes and industries in our region. The dollars contributed through the GCP PAC are specifically used to provide support for state and local government leaders campaigning for election who share GCP member interests. In 2018, the GCP PAC exceeded its annual fundraising goal for the third year in a row. Please consider making your contribution to the GCP PAC.
GCP Public Officials Reception
The 55th Annual Public Officials Reception, presented by the Greater Cleveland Partnership, brought over 500 of Northeast Ohio’s business and community leaders together with elected local, state, and federal officials at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Many thanks to our sponsors, members, and their guests for once again making this not-to-be-missed event a tremendous success.
GCP Public Policy Agenda
After months of development with the organization’s board and staff leadership, GCP will unveil its 2019-2020 public policy agenda in the very near future. The agenda will present a comprehensive set of public policy priorities on behalf of small, mid-market and large companies in Northeast Ohio.
2018 was an important election year that brought new political leadership at all levels of government. This creates new opportunities for GCP – with the help of our members – to elevate policy priorities that are important to Northeast Ohio’s business community and are critical for economic growth in the region. GCP’s Advocacy team will continue to focus on the core priorities that are important to business growth and economic development. We also look forward to advancing new policy ideas, in partnership with our political leaders and member companies, that will support the evolution of our region’s innovation economy.