Posted: 11:43 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
Three reasons why this matters to you
1. The Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development is the largest economic development agency in the Cincinnati metropolitan for business attraction and retention efforts. So, the Partnership’s activities affect local job opportunities.
2. The Cincinnati Partnership receives some funding from public tax dollars, and thus has some accountability to taxpayers to do good work. Some local governments contribute to the Partnership in various amounts. The Partnership has also received funding from the Ohio Third Frontier program.
3. In the last year, issues with the Partnership discussed in the story was said to “stagnate” job creation and retention efforts. However, both Partnership executives and local government leaders say things have gotten better.
About this story
This newspaper revealed in a report published Oct. 6 that economic development directors in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties, frustrated with the Cincinnati USA Partnership, said they weren’t getting the job-generating leads and attention from the agency that they used to before JobsOhio entered the picture. That’s a major problem when they are trying to attract new businesses and jobs to their jurisdictions.
The concerns have some local governments re-thinking their funding levels to the Partnership, which relies on public and private donations to fund its economic development activities.
In today’s report, the Partnership’s former executive director Denyse Ferguson shares her side of the story in her first interview since resigning earlier this month.
Key quotes from Denyse Ferguson
This newspaper on Oct. 15 interviewed Denyse Ferguson, former executive director of Cincinnati USA Partnership
On the Partnership’s new development strategy and new JobsOhio responsibilities
“Especially in a relationship business like economic development is, from all of your local partners all the way up to the state, it doesn’t come without its bumps. It certainly doesn’t come without its anxiety when you take a team of people and transition everyone. And when you are doing that at the same time that you make the changes the state made, you have a lot of community partners that have to have trust in the new team and that takes time to build.”
“All of those things were going on. There were bumps in the road along the way there, as was mentioned, but we were making very deliberate, very heartfelt and intentional efforts to remedy all those things. I think we were making a lot of good progress.”
“I don’t know how to address if we make all of this change and people are going to pre-decide that it’s bad.”
“I don’t have a lot of tools to address that issue, but if you can at least come into it and say okay, you know what, we’re going to lean in and give this our best shot to make it work. If it fails, we’re going to say that it failed, but there’s been a lot of incredible progress and change in this region and people all need to at least give it a period of time to hold hands together and continue to push it forward.”
On concerns about Partnership staff restructuring
“The idea is for both JobsOhio and certainly for the Partnership, and that was how I hired the new team, was that you have a strong bunch of people with long-term or lifetime economic development experience, coupled with people that have experience in the industry areas of focus and really understand how those leaders of those companies think.”
“The people that were brought in are not people that don’t understand Cincinnati. As a matter of fact, most of the people that we brought into the Partnership had directly reached out to us wanting to be engaged in our efforts, so both know Cincinnati very well, profoundly passionate about promoting Cincinnati, and they happened to come from industries where we needed industry expertise.”
On moving forward
“My sincere hope is that people will rally around the progress and continue to make it better.”
“It would be highly unfortunate to see people try to tear it down.”
“What fails to get focused on is the relationship with the team at JobsOhio and at the Partnership is very, very close. The relationship to state decision makers is closer than it’s ever been.”
On her next steps
“I will absolutely stay in Cincinnati. I have said to anyone that asks that I came here to really drive dramatic growth and change in Cincinnati. I am very committed to that. I have no intentions of leaving.”