Fewer flights at CVG mean fewer jobs for region, site-search consultant says

Cincy strengths: Work force, dynamic downtown

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati’s downsized airport and the new “right to work” laws in Indiana and Michigan are making it harder for Cincinnati to attract new companies and jobs, a national site-search consultant told WCPO Thursday.

Mark Sweeney, senior principal for Greenville, S.C. –based McCallum Sweeney Consulting, spoke to elected officials and economic development professionals at an educational forum organized by the Cincinnati USA Partnership.

Sweeney is a 24-year veteran of high-stakes economic development projects. He was involved in the search that led Nissan to relocate its 1,300-employee U.S. headquarters to Nashville from Los Angeles. Other clients include SunCoke Energy, Mitsubishi and Boy Scouts of America.

Sweeney said all projects, but especially the highly-coveted headquarters relocations, "have a strong propensity to go to hub cities with international air fare."

Sweeney said the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport doesn’t have enough domestic and international flights to make it past the early screening rounds of site searches. And the city's reputation isn’t strong enough to survive that numbers-driven cut. He cited among Cincinnati’s strengths a dynamic downtown, strong work force, plentiful industrial sites in Northern Kentucky and a strong presence in advanced manufacturing.

“As site selectors, we’re aware of the exciting new Cincinnati that’s been emerging. Our clients, not so much.” he said. “We don’t ever hear anybody saying anything negative about Cincinnati, but I can’t remember if we’ve had anybody say, ‘We need to include Cincinnati in that list.’”

Sweeney said many companies favor right to work states because they eliminate union restrictions that can impede productivity. Critics say they also force wages down. In either case, the interim director of the Cincinnati USA Partnership said Ohio hasn't suffered from its right to work status.

"Over the last three years, Ohio has gained 160,000 private sector jobs," he said. "There isn't a whole lot of discord between labor and management in Ohio."

Davis said he was pleased by the partnership's first economic development forum, intended to educate community leaders on the benefits of a sustained and collaborative economic development strategy. More than 200 registered for the event at the Sharonville Convention Center.

As WCPO reported in January , economists expect the Cincinnati economy to produce a net gain of 14,000 jobs in 2014, lagging the national growth rate.

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