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Cincinnati among three new U.S. streetcar lines hitting milestones


Urban issues website Next City discusses Cincinnati's Streetcar's final downtown track section being completed in its weekly "New Starts" roundup of newsworthy public transportation projects worldwide.

Streetcar projects in Cincinnati and Kansas City are moving toward completion, the roundup reports, with both systems awaiting delivery of their first vehicles from CAF's manufacturing plant in Elmira, N.Y. The article also provides an update on the new streetcar line in Washington, D.C., which is currently testing its vehicles and hopes to be fully operational by year end.

Read the full Next City roundup here.
 

Procter & Gamble to run its home care/fabric product factories with wind power


Procter & Gamble officials announced at their annual shareholder meeting that the company is teaming up with EDF Renewable Energy to build a wind farm in Texas to power all of its North American plants that manufacture home care and fabric products. Those facilities make some of the company’s best-known household items, including Tide, Febreze and Mr. Clean.

"It is Procter & Gamble’s biggest foray into wind power, and is the latest in a burst of partnerships between major American corporations and renewable energy companies," writes Rachel Abrams in The New York Times. "The initiative also represents an opportunity for P.&G. to garner good will with environmentally conscious consumers at a time when personal care companies are under more pressure than ever to respond to their concerns."

Shailesh Jejurikar, president of P&G’s North American fabric care division, told The Times, "More and more, we find a very large number — call it two-thirds of consumers — looking to make some kind of contribution in the space, and hopefully not making trade-offs in value or performance."

Read the full New York Times story here.
 

How Hamilton produced "drill rap" star Slim Jesus


Apparently Hamilton is home to an up-and-coming rap star who goes by the name Slim Jesus. The Atlantic's CityLab attempts to find out why a white rapper from small-town Ohio has a video with more than 1.5 million YouTube views (image from the video is above) and close to 16,500 "thumbs-up" as well as more than 7,000 "thumbs-down."

"His song 'Drill Time' has launched him into overnight celebrity status, in no small part to his gunshow spectacle, but also because of the power of social media," Brentin Mock writes. "There are plenty of blogs, listicles, and Reddit threads attempting to explain who Slim Jesus is. However, his hometown of Hamilton — the city where (President George W.) Bush dropped bombs on education and Iraq in the same speech (in 2002) — perhaps most deserves examination to understand how Slim Jesus came to be."

Among "the conditions that created Slim Jesus," Mock focuses on Ohio's vanishing manufacturing sector, which hit Hamilton especially hard, and the state's steady pro-firearms legislative march.

"While gun violence is often associated with black teens, it's not surprising to find such a huge arsenal of guns in the hands of the white, teenaged rapper," he writes. "He's a reflection of his city — which is 84 percent white and 22.9 percent poor — and a reflection of the values of the predominantly white National Rifle Association. Along with Slim Jesus, Ohio also produced Machine Gun Kelly, from Cleveland, a Rust Belt city that has recovered a bit better than Hamilton but is still in an economic rut."

Read the full CityLab story here.
 

47 local companies ranked on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private firms


The Business Courier reports on 47 Greater Cincinnati companies being ranked in this year's Inc. 5000 list of the nation's fastest growing privately held firms. Two local companies — United Installs in Erlanger and ePremium Insurance in Mason — make the more selective Inc. 500 list. In fact, ePremium Insurance ranks for the second year in a row.

The largest local private company on the list is RoundTower Technologies of Blue Ash with revenue of $131.5 million. It ranks #1,668 with "only" 244 percent growth over the past three years.

Read the Cincinnati Business Courier article here.
 

Cincinnati's marketing efforts a "best practices" model for collaboration


Andrew Levine writes about "marketing places" for Forbes, and his most recent article discussed how successful cities find ways for their two main marketing organizations — the convention and visitors bureau and the economic development agency —  to work together to increase investment in the city.

Levine suggests five ways the two marketing organizations should collaborate and uses Cincinnati as one of his "best practices" examples.

"Cincinnati is a good example of collaboration," he writes. "In May 2014, the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, REDI Cincinnati and half a dozen major arts organizations in the region led a ten-day mission to New York City (titled 'Cincy in NYC'). Amid performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Joyce Theatre, the group connected with meeting planners, site selection consultants, corporate executives, travel/business media and past Cincinnati residents. It was a tour de force for the community."

Read the full Forbes article here.
 

Miami, XU, UC and NKU ranked in Forbes' top 650 colleges


Forbes is out with its annual rankings of U.S. colleges and universities, focusing more than ever on the hot topic of a college degree's return on investment — which it says differentiates its rankings from U.S. News & World Report, among others.

Miami University was the top Cincinnati area college, ranking 167 overall, ahead of Xavier University at 315, University of Cincinnati at 381 and Northern Kentucky University at 626. Other notable area rankings include Indiana University at 112, Ohio State University at 155, University of Dayton at 220, University of Kentucky at 319 and Ohio University at 407.

"While the cost of U.S. higher education escalates, there’s a genuine silver lining in play," Caroline Howard writes in the intro to "America's Top Colleges Ranking 2015." "A growing number of colleges and universities are now focusing on student-consumer value over marketing prestige, making this a new age of return-on-investment education. This pivot is the result of intense public scrutiny on the substantial cost of a degree vs. long tail worth — the very heart of Forbes' definitive Top Colleges ranking, now in its eighth year."

Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity to rank the top 650 schools on what Howard says distinguishes is "our belief in 'output' over 'input.' We’re not all that interested in what gets a student into college, like our peers who focus heavily on selectivity metrics such as high school class rank, SAT scores and the like. Our sights are set directly on ROI: What are students getting out of college?"

Forbes' rankings score colleges on post-graduate success (32.5% of grade), student satisfaction (25%), student debt (25%), academic success (10%) and graduation rate (7.5%).

Read the full Forbes article and rankings here.
 

Cincinnati is recapturing and redefining its dining legacy


Cincinnati native Keith Pandolfi makes a convincing argument that Cincinnati is and should be recognized as the next big food city in the U.S.

Writing in Savuer ("a magazine for people who experience the world through food first"), he fills its "Where I'm From" column with memories of great local restaurants from his youth (Pigall's, The Maisonette, The Gourmet Room, The Precinct) and a first-person journey through the city's current high-profile dining spots.

"But Cincinnati is recapturing something," Pandolfi writes, "and while it’s a little different — a little less formal — than the opulent dining scene of its past, it’s definitely something worth checking out the next time a magazine article lures you to Louisville." He bristles at "other midsize cities like Nashville, Pittsburgh and Asheville, all deserving in their own ways, being called the next big food city when hardly anyone says that about Cincinnati."

Read the full Saveur article here.
 

Midwestern cities connect manufacturing past with tomorrow's next big tech invention


Next City looks at how Midwestern cities are trying to revive manufacturing in the startup economy under the catchy title "Cleveland Wants to Make Sure the Next Wright Brothers Come From the Rust Belt." Next City is a nonprofit organization providing daily online coverage of the leaders, policies and innovations driving progress in metropolitan regions across the world.

The article is written by Lee Chilcote, managing editor of Fresh Water, Soapbox's sister publication in Cleveland, and focuses on emerging "hardware" startup scenes in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Youngstown. Although Cincinnati isn't mentioned, the manufacturing startup ecosystem here — embodied at First Batch and Hamilton Mill, among other local business backers — certainly fits the changing dynamic the article describes.

"Hardware startups ... are more viable than ever thanks to evolving prototyping technology and, in many places, a renewed emphasis on advanced manufacturing," Chilcote writes. "While software's promised land has long been Silicon Valley, the Rust Belt is fast becoming a land of milk and honey — and plasma — for hardware. In cities such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, there is already an infrastructure for affordable manufacturing in place. Plenty of institutional partners like NASA in Cleveland are eager to support new entrepreneurs."

Read the full Next City article here.
 

Have developers figured out the "secret sauce" for gentrifying neighborhoods?


Have urban real estate investors come up with a winning formula to push redevelopment in "transitional" neighborhoods? According to Quartz, the digital news site covering the new global economy, it could be something as simple and intuitive as opening a coffee shop.

"Often, at least in America, we think of regular people as the agents of change — the artist, the boutique coffee shop owner, the tech startup," Sonali Kohli writes. "But as much as gentrification is an organic process, fueled by opportunity seekers and bargain hunters, it’s developers and financiers who have become the savvy midwives of change. Once they detect the early signs of gentrification, they bring on the serious money. ...

"The idea of driving development in an area by attracting trendsetters is not a new one; in fact urban planners took to calling it The Soho Effect in recognition of the revitalization of that New York City neighborhood after artists began moving into empty lofts in the 1970s."

Read the full story here.
 

Cincinnati Children's named #3 overall pediatric hospital in U.S.


U.S. News & World Report released its ninth annual rankings of U.S. pediatric hospitals, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center was recognized as #3 overall.

The rankings evaluate hospitals in 10 specialties, from cancer to urology, and in the new rankings 83 hospitals were ranked among the top 50 in at least one specialty. Twelve of the 83 ranked hospitals had high scores in three or more specialties and were named to the Honor Roll. Cincinnati Children's was one of only three hospitals to be ranked in all 10 specialties, and the other two (Boston Children's Hospital and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) ended up #1 and #2 overall, respectively.

See the full rankings here.
 

Kroger 20, P&G 32 on new Fortune 500 list


Greater Cincinnati is home to 10 of this year's Fortune 500 in the magazine's 2015 ranking of the largest U.S. public companies. Kroger is the highest ranked, at #20, followed by Procter & Gamble at #32.

Other locally-based companies to make the list include Macy's (105), Ashland (371), Omnicare (414), AK Steel (415), Fifth Third Bank (416), General Cable (443), American Financial (459) and Western & Southern (481). Omnicare recently announced it was being acquired by CVS Health (#10 on the list).

Five years ago, P&G was ranked #22 and Kroger #23.

The five largest U.S. companies are Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway and Apple.

See the full Fortune 500 list here.
 

Workers need to make $13-$14/hour to afford apartment in Tristate


CityLab discusses a new study by the Pew Research Center on the growing gap between what American hourly workers earn and the rising cost of housing. The study results in a map showing how much a worker needs to earn per hour in each state to rent a two-bedroom apartment, finding that in no state can a person earning minimum wage afford such an apartment at market rent.

You'd have to earn $14.13 per hour in Ohio to afford a two-bedroom apartment, $14.31 in Indiana and $13.14 in Kentucky. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; Ohio raised its minimum wage to $8.10/hour this year, while Indiana and Kentucky use the federally mandated rate.

CityLab also looks at the cost of moving to one-bedroom apartments, though the hourly pay requirements aren't spelled out state-by-state. Instead, a second map indicates that someone in Ohio working a minimum-wage job would need to work 54 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment; Indiana workers would have to work 62 hours/week and Kentucky workers 57 hours/week.

"Rents keep rising because the demand for rentals keeps growing, and that’s partly because fewer people can afford to buy their homes today than they could before the recession," the article says. "The low supply of rentals has created a situation where people who definitely can’t afford to buy are also priced out of renting."

Read the full story here.
 

WVXU's Cincinnati Edition discusses church buildings coming back to life


WVXU's "Cincinnati Edition" show did a segment June 2 about abandoned local church buildings coming back to life, the subject of a recent Soapbox feature story by Rick Pender. Host Mark Heyne interviewed Pender, Cincinnati Preservation Association Executive Director Paul Muller and Kevin Moreland, head brewer and partner at Taft's Ale House, a focal point of Pender's story.

Listen to the full "Cincinnati Edition" segment here.
 

Hamilton County's slashed government jobs are likely gone for good


Governing Magazine's June issue reviews financial documents for more than 250 of the nation's larger distressed cities and counties to identify those recording among the steepest declines in public employment. Hamilton County ranks 11th, cutting 26.8 percent of its workforce from its 2006 peak of 6,272 positions to its current staff of 4,592.

"Total local government employment nationally remains about a half-million below its 2008 peak. But some governments have suffered a great deal more than others," says the article, "Are Some Government Jobs Gone for Good?" "What led these governments to make severe workforce reductions and how they responded to cutbacks offer unique lessons in an era of doing more with less."

Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman is quoted as saying he doesn't expect his workforce to return to pre-recession levels anytime soon but that the county has learned to adapt to the new reality. "Quite frankly, I don't want those days back," he says. "We’re now a leaner and more engaged organization."

Read the full article here.
 

Cincinnati's police reform after 2001 riots is a national model


Cincinnati Police reforms resulting from a U.S. Justice Dept. consent decree after the 2001 riots here are in the news every time another major city undergoes soul-searching following the death of an African American at the hands of police. The latest news story was about Cleveland's own consent decree from the Justice Dept. that will attempt to clean up a broken relationship between that city's police and its citizens.

"Cincinnati’s lessons seem newly relevant as officials call for police reform in the aftermath of the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland," Alana Semuels writes in The Atlantic. "Indeed, the recently released report from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommends that departments adopt some of the strategies used by Cincinnati. A task force convened by Ohio Governor John Kasich cited Cincinnati as a model for community-oriented policing and recommended that other law-enforcement agencies in that state develop similar reforms."

Semuels offers a long, nuanced story about the long path the Cincinnati Police Dept. has traveled from its own broken community relationship to today's role as "a model for community-oriented policing." Things aren't perfect here by any stretch, as the rash of recent shootings have some questioning if the police are still on the right path.

Still, "for a great many other cities, Cincinnati’s imperfect present provides a glimpse of a much better future," Semuels writes.

Read the full story here.
 
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