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Survey says: local businesses see brighter futures

Local business owners look forward to hiring and growing, proving more confident in the future than their national peers, according to a first-of-its-kind survey by UC's Carl H. Linder College of Business and the Goering Center for Family and Private Business, launched the Greater Cincinnati Family Business Survey (GCFB).
The study was sent to more than 900 local businesses to gage their opinions on the economy and the future. It mirrors the National Federation of Independent Businesses, but adds a local focus. After comparing the local findings to the broader study done by the NFIB, Cincinnati businesses owners expected higher sales and earnings and favored the prospect of expansion.
“For a long time, I thought it would be interesting to do a study on the family businesses in the area.” says Sid Barton, executive founder of the Goering Center. “You can get national surveys and indications of large companies, but there wasn’t anything focused on local businesses.”
Barton knows the results aren’t the most reliable because of the sample size of 200, but he plans on conducting the survey each quarter to grow the sample size until it is large enough to break apart into specific business types. Barton would also like to measure the accuracy of business owners' projections.
“Our intention is to get as much promotion as we can,” Barton says. “We think this can really tell us about the economic landscape. We also want to see how good business owners are at predicting future growth.”
Barton says a main focus was employment expansion in the area.
“Most of the employment over the past decade has come from private business,” Barton says. “It hasn’t come from the large firms, because those are slowly becoming smaller.”
By Evan Wallis

Building Value hosts third ReUse-apalooza

This weekend, upcycling creatives and fans of REM join supporters of Building Value in Northside for the third annual ReUse-apalooza fundraiser, April 27.

“We are very excited about this chance to truly engage the community in reuse with ReUse-apalooza!,” says Tina Dyehouse, event volunteer and the chair of the designer challenge contest that rewards creative re-use of building materials. “The real magic of the event is it brings the community together to make a positive impact on our neighborhoods by raising awareness about sustainability and helping those with disabilities and disadvantages.”

In the spirit of Building Value's focus on "green" building practices, the event this year includes an after-party at Northside Tavern where  local favorites Messerly and Ewing will perform the entire "Green" album by REM. The band contributed REM memorabilia for the event auction as well, and will entertain the Building Value crowd before heading to the after-party.

All proceeds benefit job training program for people with disabilities and disadvantages at Building Value and its parent organization, Easter Seals Work Resource Center. Building Value employs people with disabilities from Easter Seals who staff the reuse center, which sells some of the more than 3,000 tons of building material waste Building Value diverts from landfills each year. 

Do Good:

Attend ReUse-apalooza. Tickets are available online.

• Find out more about Building Value and its impact on the community.

Donate used building materials to support the nonprofit and its environment-friendly practices.

By Elissa Yancey

Student-designed compactor heads to finals of Acara challenge

Four University of Cincinnati students won the bronze at the Acara Challenge in Minnesota on Feb. 3, advancing the team to the final round in India this summer. They were awarded two paid scholarships, as well as up to $1,000 in matching funds to attend the final round.

The four students, all enrolled in a multidisciplinary course at UC, proposed the “Renew Trash Compactor,” a new product and service that reduces trash, increases recycling, improves sanitation and generates income for the Padli Gujar village in India.

Read the full story of their journey to the finals here.

ArtWorks employing artists for summer murals

Lifeguard, camp counselor, landscaper, these all may come to mind when someone thinks about summer jobs, but ArtWorks is once again giving artists and art educators opportunities to make a long-lasting impact on the region by creating murals this summer. 
Adding to 46 murals in 28 neighborhoods throughout the region, ArtWorks is hiring nine or ten emerging artists and art educators to help design, plan and create murals over the summer. They will also hire teams of teaching artists to help with each mural.
Since 2007, ArtWorks has been creating murals and offering slots for 14-21-year-old apprentice artists who help create the murals. 
Each summer ArtWorks plans to paint murals in three neighborhoods that don’t already have murals, as well as one downtown, one in Over-the-Rhine and one in Northern Kentucky. Each project manager works around 30 hours a week with a small support staff of artists and their apprentice artists. 
“The time will vary on the size of the wall,” says Allyson Knue, program and recruitment manager at ArtWorks. “Before the painting begins, each manager will be a part of a community engagement process.”
Members of the community work artists to flesh out ideas, create sketches and make sure the community is an integral part of each mural. The process is typically four to nine weeks and runs from June through August. 
Applicants must apply before Feb. 17 and have a strong background in the arts. Artists earn between $2,500 and $6,000, depending on the size of the project. Teaching artists will help in all aspects of the process and receive between $1,350 and $4,050.
“ArtWorks is all about creative enterprise, and at the heart of that is creating opportunities for fresh ideas and new talents to have a forum for expression in Cincinnati,” says Tamara Harkavy executive director at ArtWorks. “It is our mission to be able to offer jobs to the many talented artists in our region.”
By Evan Wallis

Fairmount receives national planning grant

Fairmount, which had one of the largest concentrations of Section 8 housing in Cincinnati, was just awarded one of 13 grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The $200,000 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant was awarded to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CHMA) to formulate a comprehensive plan, over two years, to transform Fairmount into a viable community. Out of 70 applicants nationwide, Fairmount was chosen, due in part to the current lack of resources in the community.

Without a grocery store or a school, an estimated 50 percent of residents living below the poverty level and a 70-acre vacant lot that used to house the public housing community English Woods, Fairmount is in dire need of revitalization.

Out of all recipients of the CNI grants, Fairmount is the only one to list a school as a partner in the planning process. The Ethel M. Taylor Elementary School, which is located outside the limits of Fairmount, only met one state requirement in the ‘09-‘10 school year. The school will be a main focus of the planning process to rejuvenate the community.

“The next two years will be spent making a plan to make this a vibrant community,” says Kelly Kramer, senior communications coordinator at CHMA. “It will have resources that will drastically improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.”  

Housing, people and neighborhood are the three main focus areas that the CHMA will address over the next two years. Distressed and empty lots will be transformed in to mixed-income housing; families and residents will be supported to help increase education, employment and mobility, all with the end goal of creating a renewed neighborhood with well-functioning services.

The CNI is a national organization that chooses neighborhoods in the most need of the grants and first awards them with the planning grant, which Fairmount received. After the two years are up and the plan is formed, neighborhoods can apply for implementation grants.

“The hope is to put together such a good plan that it will move toward future funding,” Kramer says.

By Evan Wallis

CCM adds new degree to esteemed program

University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music has added another degree to its already nationally esteemed programs for the upcoming fall semester.

Applications have come in from all over the world for CCM’s newly announced Commercial Music Production degree. The highly selective program will only enroll about 10 students per year. The degree will mix music theory, composition, studio techniques and film scoring and be paired with a minor in music business entrepreneurship aimed to give graduates all the training they need to run their own, studio.

“They will learn how to write music from the ground up,” says Scott Belck, director of the commercial music production program. “In a strong sense, it’s a music writing degree, but then they will know how to go out and be their own recording studio.”

The possibilities for careers after completing the degree are varied, but Belck says many graduates might produce original content for use that could range from movies to commercials to albums.

“So much of the technology needed to make music is accessible and affordable anymore,” Belck says. “A graduate will be able to work on their own in whatever space they have.”

Three weeks after opening up the application process, CCM has received applications from all over the world. Faculty is looking for the best young potential in the world. Applicants have sent Youtube videos of their singing/songwriting style, while one applicant from Thailand sent a fully completed film score.

“We’re going to prepare them to be successful in the recording business,” Belck says. “We’ll follow their creative side, regardless of style.”

While some schools such as Belmont New York University and USC have programs similar to the Commercial Production degree, Belck says it is the first of its kind in the region.

By Evan Wallis

Strata-G joins NY based marketing agency

Strata-G Communications, one of the leading advertising and public relations companies in Cincinnati, will merge with Eric Mower + Associates, one of the largest marketing agencies in the country.

The downtown-based agency has more than 35 employees, all of whom stay on staff and be overseen by the two founders of Strata-G, Jeff Eberlein and Tony Magliano. The firm now joins the ranks of a company that has offices in New York, Atlanta and North Carolina, to expand the EMA to more than 250 employees and an estimated $250 million in billing in 2012.

"The combination of EMA and Strata-G makes good business sense in many ways and brings two excellent agencies together. Combining our full-service capabilities, including strong digital and public relations expertise, and enlarging the footprint our organization makes, means more and better resources to clients, greater opportunities for employees, and a bigger profile to attract new and larger clients, regionally and nationally," says Eric Mower, chairman and CEO of EMA.

Strata-G launched in 1994 when Eberlein and Magliano acquired the six-person graphic design firm, Hsiung and Associates. It has grown by serving clients such as the CVG airport, White Castle and Convergys. EMA is an integrated marketing communications agency with specialized expertise in business-to-business marketing and public relations.

Both firms have a long history of community engagement and providing pro-bono services for local organizations, such as Madcap Productions and the Requiem Project. To celebrate the merge, the two companies have formed an online fundraiser named Coming Together For Good, which will donate $1 per unique visitor to Habitat for Humanity, with a max contribution of $5,000.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our employees and our clients," says Eberlein. "As part of EMA, a much larger organization with a more significant footprint, we are positioned for greater growth, enhanced services and the ability to provide more career opportunities for our staff."  

By Evan Wallis

Startup Incubator looks to grow entrpreneurship in region

A new startup accelerator, UpTech, is partnering with NKU’s College of Informatics to create an incubator that will give 50 new businesses $100,000 to and developmental support over the next three to five years.

The application process opens February 1 and closes on March 1 for early-stage informatics companies from all over the world. The 50 winners will receive the startup funds, as well as six-months of office space in Newport, access to the College of Informatics, and even interns from NKU to help with the startup process. The program will run for three to five years, dealing out portions of the $5 million investment in rounds of ten.

A panel of national informatics, futurists, business and investment experts from leading companies such as CBS, Cisco, Dell, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Scripps, and Summus Software will serve as the contest judges. Winners will be determined through an online application and review process, which will look at seed level ideas to support five sectors of informatics: health information technology, cloud computing virtualization, business analytics, and digital media, and cyber security.

UpTech is a partner of Vision 2015, an organization that has made a plan to economically transform Northern Kentucky. UpTech is in line with the plan of 2015 because it aims to bring some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies to Northern Kentucky.

The partnership with the NKU College of Informatics, which is one of only a few in the country, is beneficial for both NKU and UpStart. UpStart will receive access to the $60 million state of the art facility, while NKU will receive the presence of the companies and well as recognition that could bring the college national attention.

“Several Greater Cincinnati-area companies have joined forces with UpTech to provide the winners with the critical business support they need during the early foundational stages,” said Bill Scheyer, co-founder of UpTech. “These local companies will provide the legal, financial, accounting, and marketing/public relations support startups need to become strong, successful businesses."

By Evan Wallis

Two college freshman create innovative app for fellow students

With an idea as good as an app that predicts whether or not school will be cancelled due to inclement weather, two students didn’t let having to learn to program and develop the app stop them.

Scott Fink, a UC engineering freshman, and his high school friend and William and Mary student, Matt Sniff worked through the warm summer months to create the app, the Snow Day Calculator, that calculates the possibility of a snow day based on several algorithms.

“After all, what more do students want than to know they could potentially have a snow day? Fink says. “The Snow Day Calculator popped into my head, and we started writing the algorithm and developing graphics.”

The app was released for both Android and iPhone platforms in December the 99 cent app has since been downloaded hundreds of times, even reaching number 26 in the Apple App store weather rankings.

Just like many other apps, once a good idea was seen, people try to copy and compete with apps by making modified versions.

“Someone copied our idea about a week after us and came out with a similar app for $1.99. So, we have had to effectively market the app and prove that ours is just as good or better for less money,” Fink says.

Fink and Sniff have other Internet and computer related ventures they are trying to capitalize on. Photorankr.com, an amateur photography website, where people can share and rank photos. The site uses algorithms to find which photos are being ranked highest and trending the most at any moment. Another venture is one Sniff has developed at William and Mary is collegecambio.com, a site were students can not only buy and sell textbooks, but they can buy and sell just about anything else, talk about professors and classes, arrange rides home, or anything else they could possibly need.

“It has been extremely rewarding to see some real results from our hard work. It's important to translate learning into real world experience,” Fink says.

By Evan Wallis

Progress on Mercer Commons underway in Over the Rhine

The demolition of two 1850s buildings earlier this month were the first signs that the $55 million Mercer Commons project is on its way. The most expensive project undertaken by non-profit development group 3CDC will inject dozens of rental units, extensive commercial space, condominiums, townhomes and new construction into the Vine Street district of Over the Rhine.

The development will stretch from Vine street to Walnut street between 13th and 14th streets. It will cover nearly 3 acres with new construction, 19 renovated historic buildings, a 340-space parking garage and two green spaces. It will introduce 154 housing units and 17,600 square feet of commercial space to Over the Rhine.

The Mercer Commons project includes 30 units of affordable rental apartments for qualifying low-income residents. The units will be located in the same buildings, and have the same amenities, as 96 market rate rental units. To date, 3CDC has introduced 68 rental apartments to the neighborhood, so Mercer Commons will nearly triple that number.

The design features of a glass and metal structure to be built on Vine Street, and the demolitions, have drawn criticism from community groups.

Cincinnati's planning commission approved the project in December on the condition that the developer alter a few design features, mostly on the exterior of the large building on Vine Street. The changes are intended to bring the building in step with the "verticality and rhythm" of existing historic structures, 3CDC’s vice president of communications Anastasia Mileham said. The new design will mimic the appearance of several vertical buildings, rather than one wide building, to blend better with the row houses and other historic structures in the neighborhood, she said.

She said the new building’s design features are similar to other buildings constructed by 3CDC in the area.

“There are a lot of buildings in that surrounding area that mirror some of the design elements and materials that are used in [the new building on Vine Street],” Mileham said. “It’s a cool building and I think its going to make a statement.”

Mileham said the two historic buildings needed to be demolished so the project could “make sense financially” and still provide 30 units of low income housing. It will also allow the parking garage to be encapsulated within the interior of the development. She said there were major structural concerns with the buildings.

The first phase of construction on the project will begin in this quarter of 2012, with the third and final phase projected to be finished in the first quarter of 2013.

When it is finished, Mileham said the project will provide a vital link between the Vine Street neighborhood and the Main Street arts and entertainment district.

By Henry Sweets

Northside International Airport plans to take off early 2012

A long time Northside resident and business owner is opening yet another business at 4029 Hamilton Ave.

Aileen McGrath, co-owner of Fabricate and longtime bartender at Northside Tavern, plans to launch Northside International Airport in the old Bronz club storefront. N.I.A will be a mini-mall, complete with a taco bar, Tacocracy. With an opening planned for early 2012, McGrath has already handpicked six shops to help get N.I.A off the ground.

McGrath has been interested in the idea for a collaborative shop for a while. She wants to give people who want to have their own business a cheaper, less-involved opportunity to try their hand at running a storefront. For less than it costs to rent a booth four times at events like the City Flea or Second Sundays in OTR, N.I.A will allow vendors to share space, utilities, rent, equipment and work hours. Each retailer will run the shop one day a week, selling all of the retailers’ goods.

“It’s like a antique mall, without all the surplus junk,” McGrath says. “It’s set up like a co-op so we can all continue to foster our other creative endeavors or jobs.”

N.I.A.’s initial residents are Tacocracy, Wax Aesthetic, McGrath’s own store, The Dirty Loft, (False) Minotaur, ≥ and Bathroom Gallery. Concepts range from shops with vintage clothing, musical instrument and furnishings to, literally, an art gallery inside a bathroom.

With the goal to boost the business and creativity in the 4000 block of Hamilton Avenue with storefronts that are vital to the atmosphere of the neighborhood, McGrath will continue to run Fabricate while she gets ready for the opening of N.I.A.

McGrath recognizes that there are already many small shops that contribute to Northside’s eclectic feel, but believes the community always welcomes new businesses.

“OTR has been in its biggest upswing ever over the past few years and it's awesome,” McGrath says. ‘We've always had the same caliber of people and creativity here (Northside) too, and I wanted to cultivate an environment where this can happen.”

By Evan Wallis

Evanston faces show what neighborhood treasures

In Evanston, faces of the community have become an integral part of the landscape, literally, representing a worldwide challenge from an award-winning artist.

JR, a French street artist, started taking up-close, black-and-white portraits of people and pasting enlarged versions of them in public spaces in locations around the world. His work started as an illegal project, but become known by many. In March of this year, JR was presented with the TED Prize for innovation and creativity.

In his TED speech, JR urged people to follow his lead; to create art for the sake of making art. Art can turn the world inside out, he explains. As TED Prize winner, he is granted one wish. His was to create a movement in which people stand up for what they care about by contributing to a large-scale, participatory art project, now known as the Inside Out Project.

Locally, the Contemporary Arts Center, along with arts groups, took up the Inside Out Project initiative. In Evanston, the CAC, Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Communtiy-Engaged Learning, Flavor of Art Studios and artists’ collective Satellite Projects brought together community leaders to begin the project. The Evanston Group, as they call themselves, have since created a community-centered art project.

Portraits from groups like the Evanston Group are being uploaded to the Inside Out Projects website, adding to an expansive collection of portraits from around the world, all stored and showcased on one site.

The Evanston result features photos taken by Xavier students and local photographers, John Curley, Greg Rust, Alyssa Konerman and Sean Dunn. They captured images of community children, parents, teachers and leaders. Now images are posted at the Evanston Recreation Center, the Evanston Employment Resource Connection, two other locations on Montgomery Road and Dana Avenue, as well as several locations around Xavier University. One temporary billboard, at the corner of Dana and Montgomery, displays one of the portraits.

The Evanston Group began its work by asking neighbors to illustrate their value, their place in their part of the city. Throughout the course of five different photo shoots, the community of Evanston was captured, on camera and in black and white.

“There’s a story behind each picture that is fascinating,” says Sean Rhiney, director of the Xavier University’s Eigel Center for Communtiy-Engaged Learning and former Soapbox managing editor. “We asked people to bring an object that represents what the feel they bring to the community. For some people, it was their smile.”

The CAC is working with several neighborhoods around the city to participate in the Inside Out Project.

By Evan Wallis

Phase 5 of OTR renovation starts

The company that renovated Fountain Square and is in the process of recreating Washington Park, 3CDC, is about to start construction on the fifth phase of its building and renovation plan to get more people living in OTR.

Spanning from 13th to 15th and Elm to Walnut streets, 112 new housing units should be ready for occupancy by this time next year, with construction beginning in December or January. Most are renovations and rehabs, except for 17 new units in Mercer Commons, which sits between Walnut and Vine in the 1300 block. One sector, on 15th and Republic, will have 14 rental units. All others will be for sale.

Options range from 500-square-foot studios to a 1,900-square-foot, three bedroom flat. Prices will be set before the end of this year. All together, more than 100,000 square feet will be renovated or built in Phase Five. Around 8,500 square feet will be street-level, commercial space.
Since 2004, 3CDC has completed 186 units, which now have 81 percent occupancy.

Washington Park, which is not part of Phase 5, should be completed by June 2012. It adds eight acres of green space to OTR. While many historic aspects of the park will be reserved, there will also be new performance stages, a water playground and a 450-space underground parking garage.

Phase Five is the last step planned so far in the large-scale renovation plan for OTR. 3CDC owns property stretching from Walnut to Central Parkway and up to Liberty Street, which still needs to be scheduled for renovation. Over $162 million has been invested into OTR since 2004.

By Evan Wallis

lululemon athletica gets hip on Hyde Park Square

Yoga practitioners, runners, dancers and sweaty types of all varieties understand the value of a beautiful tank, tee or capri to make any workout more fun. Starting this Friday, Hyde Park Square shoppers can get an even bigger dose of the newest, hippest exercise wear at the expanded new lululemon athletica store on Michigan Avenue.

Offerings include tops made with silverescent fabric, fabric that inhibits the kind of stinky that stays with garments after they have been worn during, um, strenuous workouts. That's right. Stink-proof workout wear! With more than 150 stores throughout the U.S. and Australia, the brand continues to post strong earnings, in part because of its focus on the life part of lifestyle.

Lululemon, known for technical fabrics and functional designs, consults with yogis and athletes in local communities for research and feedback. They call their very fit focus group members "ambassadors," and the ranks in Cincinnati include a wealth of multi-tasking fitness gurus. Examples: a law student/ironman competitor, a two-time breast cancer survivor/triathlete/biological anthropologist, and a certified Pilates instructor/Rhythm & Motion dance teacher.

With a mission "to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness," the staff of lululemon athletica  approaches their work with energy, passion and wit. And free yoga. That's right, every Saturday the Hyde Park store will offer free yoga from 9 until 10 am. Customers can sample different styles of yoga during the weekly sessions, then cool down with a good dose of retail therapy.

Sunday morning Run Club starts at the showroom at 8:30 am, and allows runners of all levels to learn and work together toward common fitness goals. You can reach the store at 513-321-1656.

By Elissa Yancey

Photo of Susan Autran, lululemon ambassador, courtesy lululemon

OTR pride flies high in Washington Park

Joan Kaup and Angela Morrow both live and work in OTR. On a fall day, Morrow struck up a conversation with Kaup about several silk workshops she was doing through her gallery, c4yourself, where people paint out their hopes and dreams for the city of Cincinnati. Morrow shared how hanging these silks in her gallery reminded her of the Gates installation in Central Park designed by Cristo and Jean-Claude, which consisted of more than 7,000 silk flags lining 23 miles of pathways.

During the conversation, Morrow said, “Wouldn’t it be great if something like the Gates could happen here in Washington Park?” Kaup quickly responded, “Why not?” and OTR Flags was born.

Morrow has been the project visionary since the beginning and is managing the entire process. Emanuel Community Center, known as a community connector, introduced Morrow to 3CDC and Cincinnati Parks board about creating the installation in OTR's Washington Park. The women caught the organizations in the planning phases of the renovation of Washington Park, and was able to secure permit 1 to celebrate the opening of Washington Park.

Since then, partnerships with ArtWorks, ArtsWave, Music Hall and the YMCA, just to name a few, have been formed to collaborate with as much as the community as possible. Which is the same goal OTR Flags is working towards. The flags will represent everyone who lives, works, plays and loves OTR.

“We want to celebrate this park as an inclusive landmark in the city,” Kaup says. “It’s everybody’s park, so everyone should be able to participate.”

The flags will come in two different sizes. Larger flags will be sponsored by companies or organizations, which will then coordinate with a local artist and facilitator. The groups will talk about the organization’s commitment to OTR, the park and the community. The artists will then tell the story of that involvement in a painting on the flag. Smaller flags, painted by individuals, will hang from wired lights that surround the park's gazebo. Once completed, there will be 25 large flags and 80 to 100 small flags.

While there is a fee to claim flags, the team realized if everyone had to pay, it wouldn’t be a true representation of the community. So OTR Flags teamed with OTR Community Housing to raise scholarships for community members who can’t afford their own flag. All proceeds from OTR Flags will go back to Emanuel Community Center to help create more grassroots community campaigns that give the entire community a chance to participate

Interested in being a paid artist to tell someone's story? Get more info here.

Interesting in painting your own small flag? Get more info on the workshops here.

By Evan Wallis

Photo by Brittany Skelton

267 Leadership Articles | Page: | Show All
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