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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

Melink hosts White House sustainability adviser

Last week Nancy Sutly, President Obama’s principal environmental adviser and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, joined local business leaders in a roundtable discussion at the Melink Corporation facility in Milford, Ohio. The purpose of the discussion was to open a dialogue between local business leaders and the federal government regarding clean energy and jobs for Ohioans.  

Local sustainability professionals on the panel included Melink Corporation President Steve Melink, Dave Yarborough of PNC Bank, Bob Knight of Emerson Design, Mark Fisher of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and Elena Pfarr of Macy’s. Business Leaders from Cintas, General Cable, the Maverick Corporation, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and GreenSource Distribution also participated in the discussion.

Sutly focused on the government's desire to help communities and local businesses adopt clean-energy practices. “The government is the single largest consumer of energy,” Sutly says. “The Obama Administration challenges us all to avoid wasting billions of dollars by reducing our carbon footprint. How can the government help?”

Most participants agree that the key to challenging local businesses and the community to embrace clean energy is education. “Most retailers face a big challenge when building from the ground up," Pfarr says. "Incentives are helpful, but targeting education is key."

Others insist that policy changes are necessary. “It would help if somehow my boy Barack could get a national energy standard through Congress," Fisher says. "Without bills, growth doesn’t happen. Tell him I said that.”

Panelists also expressed concern about the future of workers in the construction industry during the transition to new practices and procedures. “Those who are in the construction industry should have the opportunity to be educated," says Yarborough. "The system should be directed towards trades.”

Others expressed an inability to expand hiring practices. “We can’t hire because our clients can’t plan,” says Knight. “The government should consider offering an incentive if a business adopts a clean energy feature [that] pays for itself in 10 years.”  

At the end of the discussion, Sutly expressed great optimism about the future of clean energy in Ohio. “This is an important national conversation," she says. "There is a global race going on. What I’ve heard here is that today is that Ohio communities and businesses are having the same discussions.”

By Jamie White

MBA announces its first Accelerator Emeritus

The Cincinnati USA Chamber's Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) celebrated a milestone in June, when it recognized local firm Global Novations as its inaugural Accelerator Emeritus. While the award recognized the talent and market optimization firm's significant growth - it has gone through an acquisition, a merger that enhanced its global reach and has earned investment from major financial backers - it also marks a coming-of-age moment for the MBA, which grew out of a 2001 charge to help minority-owned businesses grow, thrive and succeed.

"We've been rocking and rolling" since 2004, says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion. She explains that the MBA has two focuses: it works directly with minority-owned businesses doing $1 million or more in business, and works with corporations, ranging from Procter & Gamble and Kroger to the Cincinnati Reds, to promote, measure and improve diversity efforts.

The MBA has grown in scope and reach since its launch, and now includes 36 businesses and 26 corporations in its portfolio. The Accelerator Emeritus award, German says, is intended to honor participants whose growth exemplifies the program's goal of helping businesses compete in the regional and global marketplace.

"It is primarily intended to recognize firms in our portfolio who really represent financial indicators of success," she says, explaining that Global Novations' major business moves stand as a model for other businesses in the program.

"These are things we hope our minority-owned firms see as part of their strategic plans," she says.

Global Novations Managing Partner Janet Reid says the commendation is a significant honor.

"We feel grateful to have received it," she says. "The philosophy [in the MBA] is to create emeritus members. The fact we were one of the first to get in and one of the first to get out is a testament to the quality of support they provide for businesses."

Chris Kemper, the chamber's director of public relations, says the award also marks a new chapter in the MBA's life.

"We've been pretty focused on building the portfolio companies," he says. "Now that one has gone to emeritus status, it changes things. It's a good sign. It shows maturity in our portfolio."

German says the commendation comes with a charge of its own: to carry on the MBA's tradition of helping fellow portfolio businesses, as well as other minority-owned businesses in the region.

"That's always been part of the relationship," she says, referring to both informal mentoring among companies and a specific charge to engage other minority owned businesses and enhance workplace diversity.

Reid says Global Novations is happy to take on the charge.

"The relationship we have with [MBA participant] businesses is tremendous," she says. "There's a level of frankness..you're all talking about the same thing, which is how to grow our businesses."

German adds that the Accelerator Emeritus award won't be an annual event. It will be given out as companies in the MBA's portfolio reach points of distinction and success that mirror that of Global Novations. But with its average portfolio company revenue growing from under $7 million to more than $20 million, there may not be a long gap before another MBA member earns the high status.

By Matt Cunningham
Follow Matt on Twitter @cunningcontent

Green Business Council focuses on 'triple bottom line'

People, planet, profits.  

First coined in the 1980s, the term "triple bottom line" expands the measurement of organizational success far beyond business-as-usual economics. And it's the focus of the newly minted Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council.    

This area's first "green" collaboration of local business leaders is dedicated to expanding the spectrum and values of success into sustainability while increasing their bottom lines.

The driving force behind this new council is Cintas, a Cincinnati-based corporation that provides nationwide business support ranging from uniforms and first aid safety to cleaning products and document management.

Cintas has been a local leader in sustainable business initiatives, switching to green detergents, recycling everything from paper to hangers, saving gas with combined routing, and creating a line of business clothing that is made of 100 percent recycled polyester.   

Cintas noticed that some of its nation-wide clients belonged to green business councils in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other metropolitan areas. "So we decided to reach out into our own backyard," says Melanie Boyle, environmental sustainability specialist for Cintas.   

The reaction was immediate.   

In addition to Cintas, six other major companies quickly signed on to share best practices, lead by example and consider the role of both culture and technology in sustainability: Procter & Gamble, Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America, Melink Corporation, Macy's, Luxottica Group and Fifth Third Bank.  

"One of our core values is giving back to the communities in which we operate, so advancing sustainability in the Greater Cincinnati area through the GCGBC is a natural extension of these values," said William Gates, Macy's director of paper, print media services and sustainability, in a press release announcing the council's formation.

Already, some member companies are adopting green ideas shared at the first council meetings. Cintas is saving paper now through double-sided copying, a practice picked up via the council.    

Boyle sees the benefits of the collective knowledge within the group. "Learning about the advantages and ways to overcome obstacles with a project or initiative from another company who has already gone down the path is a great advantage for the rest of the group."

Since the launch of its website, the Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council has had 70 requests for more information from local businesses. Some of them may have just started to "think green" and could learn the most from this new council.   

"We want their commitment and a willingness to drive projects" like composting and water conservation, says Boyle. "People are very excited to talk about what's going on in Cincinnati."

By Becky Johnson

Power in proximity at The Brandery's new OTR space

Cincinnati-based business accelerator The Brandery began moving in late June into a three-story office space in the 1400 block of Vine Street. The rehabilitated building features high ceilings, an open floor plan and skylights that let in light to all floors - all desirable features in rapidly-revitalizing Over-the-Rhine.

But The Brandery founders J.B. Kropp and Dave Knox say the features that go beyond the architecture are what will attract creative energy -- and a new generation of startup businesses -- from across the country.

"We looked at a couple of spots," says Kropp, who adds that the revitalization underway in Over-the-Rhine has turned what was once a no-go part of the city into a powerful introduction to Cincinnati for startups from out of town. "If we're going to pull in 15 to 20 people for their first experience of Cincinnati, this is going to be great for it."

Knox added that, although the team considered other sites in Over-the-Rhine, Vine street's placement between Main Street and Washington Park made it ideal.

"It's more the heat of what's happening," he says of the glass-fronted office.

Along with being a fitting introduction to the Queen City, Kropp and Knox say the 4,500-square-foot office is designed to cultivate idea sharing and connectivity among like-minded entrepreneurs. To that end, they say The Brandery office will be open for local startups and startup-related businesses to gather and work.

"We envision seeing more people in Cincinnati coming in," Kropp says. "They might be saying, 'I'm not ready for funding yet, but can I just hang out?'"

Knox adds that The Brandery hopes to serve as a meeting place for area tech and startup meetups, establishing the office space as a central gathering place for people to generate and cultivate new ideas.

"It's a good experience from all sides," Kropp says.

The Brandery's newest class of startups will begin the business development program August 1. Knox says he's excited to begin the program in the new space, a location that he noted is much as he and Kropp envisioned when they launched The Brandery with Bryan Radtke and Rob McDonald in 2010.

"We've been looking for a permanent home ever since we started," he says. "This place has power in its proximity."

By Matt Cunningham

IKEA goes solar for West Chester store

Since international home furnishings giant IKEA says it aims to be "The Life Improvement Store" by incorporating green environmental qualities in its buildings and products, the retailer's recent announcement that it will be adding solar panels to its West Chester Twp. location should come as little surprise.

Construction on the rooftop array is scheduled to begin by the end of this spring and is expected to be complete by this fall. IKEA reported that the 4,452-panel array should reduce the store's greenhouse gas emissions by 1,012 tons of carbon dioxide and will lower the cost of its electric bill.

"IKEA's main goal is to focus on sustainability, but with this project, it is probably our most visible way to show our visitors and customers that we are actually doing something to make a better life for people by reducing our carbon footprint," said IKEA spokesperson Kitalena Mason. "We are happy to take the lead with this project and hope to inspire other businesses and residents to find their own sustainable project."

Because IKEA already commits to sustainable efforts such as recycling waste material, incorporating environmental measures with the construction, using energy efficient lighting systems, and having water efficient restrooms, IKEA feels it is their responsibility to be a leader in the community for sustainable efforts. Although surrounding businesses and residents in the area may not have the funds and capacity to install solar panels, Mason explained that the company wants to encourage other businesses in West chester and Mason to pursue their own sustainable projects, whether it pertains to recycling, lighting materials, or solar power. The store staff also plans to update customers, visitors and community partners as the solar array project progresses. In addition, Mason said the retailer hopes to work with local schools to give students exposure to the technology going in on the big blue building's roof.

"Between the Zoo and IKEA, [Cincinnati] will definitely start to be viewed as a green city," Mason added. "Typically, people view Portland or Seattle as a green city, but Cincinnati has wanted to get into that mix with having smaller businesses installing smaller solar and wind projects. If you have enough of those sprinkled throughout the city, Cincinnati's image may turn into a green city."

Writer: Lisa Ensminger

Urban Partnership creates business improvement district in Covington

Covington gets a Business Improvement District (BID) thanks to a collaborative private/public partnership that includes the city of Covington, philanthropic foundations, and the Urban Partnership of Covington.  The District is bordered by Martin Luther King Drive (12th Street) and the Ohio River and the Licking River and Interstate 75.

The Urban Partnership plans to raise money over the next year to provide free clean and safe services for the community. These services include power washing sidewalks, removing graffiti, picking up litter, and eventually providing additional services such as marketing/communications and stakeholder services.

"We really think that cleaning up the urban core and residential units will spur investment and business to Covington," said Pat Frew, the Executive Director of Urban Partnership of Covington. "A priority for us is to increase middle income market rate housing because we have very high income and also very low income housing in the area. If you bring a new business to the community, you must have middle income range housing in order for the business to sustain growth, and that's where we're really lacking."

Covington decided it was time to revamp the city area after seeing success in neighboring cities like Cincinnati and Louisville. Both Downtown Cincinnati Inc. and the Louisville Downtown Management District have proven successful by luring residents, shoppers, and diners back downtown - both cities have been helpful and supportive by sharing information with Covington.

Paul Sartori, Partner with Legacy Financial Advisors and Steve Brunson, Vice President/Director of Business Development for Republic Bank have both agreed to co-chair the Urban Partnership of Covington in order to raise $600,000 within the next two years.

"We have a lot of challenges to face," Frew explained. "It's like when you need to go on a diet, you didn't get fat over night. The city took years of neglect to get in its current condition. It's not going to be reversed overnight and we're going to have to all pull together to make this work. That's why partnership is important because we are looking for ways we can work together to make it a better place to live."

The Urban Partnership also received a $10,000 gift from Duke Energy to assist in funding operations for the recently launched Business Improvement District. Frew explained that they have already raised over $100,000 in funds from various corporations and local contributors and have already gained tremendous support from Mayor Denny Bowman, Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, the Catalytic Development Funding Corporation of NKy, and Alex Blust, General Manager of Holiday Inn Riverfront.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
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