Another story of Economic Dysfunction in Dayton

There is a little grocery at the corner of Wayne and Keowee, four blocks from my house. As someone who was raised on pita bread, fresh made hummus, fresh figs, dates and olives- Halal market is one of my favorite things about living in South Park.
It’s tiny- even compared to a mini-mart, with cans piled high, coolers overstocked, and a lot of things labeled in Arabic- which is fine with me. It’s not dirty- but, if you look closely, it’s well worn. Shopping is done with a hand-basket- you couldn’t get a shopping cart through an aisle if you tried.
For the last year- the guys have been planning a big move- across the street to the rear of the old Rush Package Delivery building- where they run a used car lot. They’ve bought all new coolers, fixtures- and have been ready to move for at least 6 months.
So what’s the hang up? The City of Dayton.
Apparently, even though a grocery their size isn’t required to have a public bathroom- the City is demanding a handicapped accessible bathroom. The additional cost- $9000 to knock out a block wall to make the two current bathrooms into one large enough to accommodate a wheel chair.
I had to fight the same type of battles 18 years ago to open my ad agency in a boarded-up former corner grocery store. My favorite bit of stupidity was the city trying to require a lighted “exit” sign over the front door- this in a building with 4 doors to the outside within 15 feet from the front door- all with large glass windows in the doors.
If it isn’t obvious where the exit is, or where you came in, if there was a fire, and you can’t figure out how to get out- it’s Darwin’s way of saying you don’t deserve to be in the gene pool. Which is what we need to do with our building inspectors- who are causing more grief than good, furthering the reputation of Dayton as a pain-in-the-ass place to try to do business.
What do you think?

Dayton Public to give free college?

I know I was late- but, I was there for all of the Dayton Public Schools speaker- John Carr very carefully picked his words, didn’t make any stunning announcements- and he left the moment the meeting was over- so when I picked up the Dayton Daily News this morning and read the headline:“Dayton Schools propose idea to keep students in the city” I knew that once again, someone wrote a headline without carefully reading what the writer wrote.

It’s this kind of second rate journalism that keeps the Dayton Daily News from being a credible news source. It’s also one of the reasons Blogs like this can be so important. The speaker from the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, Bob Steinbach, did showcase ideas like the Peoria Promise as an idea that is being tried in another city- but DPS didn’t make that proposal. In fact, I was the one who mentioned that many students in DPS and our area schools are earning 2 year degrees at Sinclair for free through various programs- that hardly counts as a DPS proposal.

Since the DDN doesn’t keep articles available- here is what ran- I will try to get the retraction up tomorrow.

Dayton schools propose idea to keep students in the city

Incentive to complete all schooling in Dayton could result in free tuition at any Ohio public college.

By Scott Elliott, Staff Writer

DAYTON — Suppose every child who completed all their schooling and graduated in Dayton were guaranteed free tuition at any Ohio pubic college.

What effect might that have on housing patterns in Dayton?

In Michigan, where the Kalamazoo Promise makes such a guarantee, realtors report improving home values in that city and inquiries about moving there from every state.

A copycat “Dayton Promise” was just one idea for attacking suburban sprawl and the problems it creates for school districts that were discussed Thursday at a meeting sponsored by Grassroots Greater Dayton.

About 45 who attended heard John Carr, Dayton school construction chief, describe how falling enrollment in the city schools has caused the district to reduce its construction program by eight schools.

Meanwhile, Beavercreek Superintendent Dennis Morrison said exploding growth there already has the schools over capacity and are creating a desperate need for new buildings.

Dayton’s lack of wealth made it eligible for 61 percent matching funds for its $627 million building program. Beavercreek won’t be eligible until 2112 and then can only receive 9 percent state money for its projects.

The group discussed three ideas for a regional solution — allowing more students to transfer between districts, consolidating area school districts under one umbrella and a Kalamazoo-style promise.

Perhaps the least complicated option is the donor-funded scholarship program, such as that in Kalamazoo.

“It’s not really an education initiative,” said Bob Steinbach, of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. “The people who funded it see it as an economic development initiative to stabilize neighborhoods in Kalamazoo and attract middle class families with educational aspirations for their kids.”

Grassroots Greater Dayton- schools

I was late.

That sucked. I’m sorry.
Missed the interesting part- well most of it. But, there was this part about the Kalamazoo Promise- where the city of Kalamazoo was offering their public schools graduates a free four-year college degree.

Next thing you knew- all the for-sale signs came down.

Instead of tax abatements – Kalamazoo decided to invest in the social capital of their community.

Contrast that with Dayton- where we are busy investing in new school buildings – and a lot less of them, since we have been losing students to charter schools at an insane rate, on top of our population loss.

In the meantime, the Beavercreek school superintendent  can’t find enough space for all their students. When I suggested that they use the excess building capacity available in Dayton, Fairborn etc- I was told that State law prevented it- students must attend within the district.

Since school districts don’t follow municipal boundaries- this makes me wonder- who are we kidding. Parts of Dayton are in the Huber Heights, Beavercreek and Mad River School districts.

Another interesting point- while Charter schools can’t locate in a high performing district- they can accept students from them. Makes you wonder- are Charter schools not worthy of the suburbs?

It was made clear that the Ohio school funding formulas are a huge part of our education problem. Considering the State has been ignoring the State Supreme Court for at least 5 years- this isn’t going to be fixed right away.

What became very clear is that there are other ways to address these education issues that aren’t being tried in Dayton. Raleigh North Carolina decided to turn the entire county into one school district, when businesses decided that the graduates weren’t what they needed to keep their businesses running.

Dayton’s biggest problem is a perception one. Dayton public schools have improved dramatically in the last 5 years- however; they are still not being recognized for their many strengths. Once again, Dayton’s low self esteem issue is in the way.

You may not be aware of this, but there are a bunch of programs in the local schools that reward graduates with a 2-year degree from Sinclair at no-charge already- one program is called TechPrep. So, it’s not as if we haven’t started in the right direction- we’re just terrible about letting everyone know that we have some great things in Dayton.

Grassroots Greater Dayton has a forum on their site to discuss these issues- if you have some ideas, which may be the first place to go.

What do you think?

When our “leaders” and “economists” don’t understand what drives jobs

Although I hate taking a whole story and quoting it- I’ve included today’s DDN story below. This is because you have to be able to access it later for this to make sense- and the DDN takes stories away after a set time.

Fundamentally- the idea of local government creating jobs (other than in government) is flawed- it diverts energy and resources away from government actually governing (providing basic shared services and stable infrastructure as well as social integrity- ie. a lawful and safe environment). It’s what happens when the military tries to be a police force, they can do it, but it’s not what they are best at.

WSU economist Robert Premus talks about developing “the next generation of technological entrepreneurs,”… people who “know how to make business opportunities out of technology.”

Hmmmm, Austin Texas does that pretty well, with a lot of tech start-ups. And guess, what, those people Premus wants, want to live in Austin- a “creative community” and one that fosters an image of a hip, youth oriented music mecca- once a year with the SXSW music festival. California has always had the lures of sun, fun and at one time- inexpensive super State run schools. None of the population growth and high energy economic environment was bought by government- it was an image of a place to be successful.

It’s sad to hear our counties chief ED director, Joe Tuss quoted “There’s a lot of work being done to generate the next generation of businesses. But it’s a long haul.”

Instead of saying: “Dayton has a lot of underdeveloped value that is ripe for smart companies to reap value from- from low cost of living, to abundant water, to a high concentration of engineers- plus a great cultural scene that rivals or beats other growing communities- it’s my job to change our message and our image to one of success, instead of allowing the Dayton Daily News to continue telling our community our weaknesses.”

Maybe you get the point- maybe you don’t- but our self-esteem as a community makes us one of the hag sisters- instead of a Cinderella- about to score the prince.

Here is a short list of strengths:

  • Sinclair Community College ($36 per credit hour)
  • Abundant water supply
  • Outstanding recreational opportunities (bike trails, 5 Rivers Metroparks- and soon possibly a white water park)
  • No traffic jams (even with I-75 and US 35 construction)
  • Central location for distribution and close proximity to DHL hub in Wilmington
  • No seismic flaws like all of California, or Hurricane risks like the Gulf Coast and Florida
  • Inexpensive real estate
  • 4 seasons (some people don’t like living in the desert or year round 100% humidity)
  • Above average arts and cultural opportunities (DCDC, Rhythm in Shoes, Dayton Ballet, Muse Machine, CityFolk Festival, multiple venues- from the Victoria and the Fraze to the Schuster, The Dayton Art Institute, and even places like Canal Street Tavern)
  • Friendly people (try saying hello to people on the street in LA or NYC)

Read the article below- and see if you think Government can really solve the problems they talk about- or if you think that government would do better to “stick to the knitting” (as Tom Peters suggested in “In search of excellence”) and worked on providing the private sector with a solid playing field to do its thing- and then leave your suggestions.

I don’t claim to have all the answers- but I do believe a little solid marketing smoke and mirrors could do more than throwing tax dollars at businesses to try to get them to move here- because once you start doing that- you are only competing on price- not on the strength of your product.
Local job efforts lack focus, substance, economist says
Region needs to take advantage of its many engineers, says Wright State professor.

By Tom Beyerlein and Margo Rutledge Kissell

Staff Writers

Reynolds and Reynolds Co.’s announcement Friday that it will cut 450 jobs, most of them in the Dayton area, in the next three years underscores the urgency of developing a new wave of local employers, experts said.

That’s easier said than done, they acknowledged, as the area continues to be affected by globalization trends and dragged down by its links to the General Motors supply chain.

“We have an industry mix that’s working against us,” said Wright State University economics professor Robert Premus. While old-school manufacturing employers are in layoff mode, he noted, “we’re not growing major new companies in town.”Like many Rust Belt towns, Dayton has been trying to position itself as a high-tech mecca since the 1980s. But Premus, who has studied the economy for decades, said the efforts have lacked substance and focus.

“We didn’t really get serious about it,” he said. “We talked about it, but we didn’t know what to do.”

The region has more engineers than many high-tech regions “it’s sort of a paradox, Premus said, but they’re mostly tied to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the auto industry. “These are good jobs, but it’s not a source of major new industries.”

What the region needs is a much stronger effort to develop “the next generation of technological entrepreneurs,” Premus said, people who “know how to make business opportunities out of technology.”

He said he’s been trying to foster collaboration between Wright State’s business and engineering schools, but there hasn’t been much community support. “It’s been a lightweight effort when what we need is a heavy push.”

Assistant Montgomery County Administrator Joe Tuss said the area is battling national job “trends that we can only impact very minimally” if at all. We’re truly looking at a world economy, and there’s no doubt it’s having significant, long-term negative consequences on this community.”

There are hopeful signs, Tuss said: increasing aerospace medicine research at Wright-Pat, the new RFID Solutions Center near Springboro, a composites center in Dayton.

“Is there a way out of this? I think strategically this community is trying to leverage from its strengths,” Tuss said. “There’s a lot of work being done to generate the next generation of businesses. But it’s a long haul.”

Meanwhile, local United Way chief Marc Levy worries about the human impact of the Reynolds and Reynolds layoffs and other recent cuts.

“It’s another announcement that will continue to reinforce the growing concern that people have about the economy in the local region,” he said of Friday’s announcement.

What’s more, the Reynolds cuts are “in the technology area, which is where much of the growth has been seen and where the optimism is for the future jobs,” Levy said. It’s critical for the community to maintain a strong network of human services “for family and children at a time when resources are seriously being stretched.”

Levy said the waves of layoffs are having a ripple effect in the community.

“It’s getting to the point where everybody is directly or indirectly feeling the impact from this,” he said. “It may be a next-door neighbor, someone you went to school with, who lives down the road, who you see playing golf or out to dinner.”

The new city manager?

Ran into Mayor McLin today at the 2nd Street Public Market.

She was buying flowers- that she was planning on taking out and giving away to people in N.W. Dayton- an “act of kindness.” That’s the kind of Mayor we have- one who believes that picking up trash as she walks the ‘hoods- will have an impact. Some people think she’s a bit nuts- I think she’s got part of the right idea- but hasn’t found a “Brand voice” that can carry her message.

We had a brief talk about the next city manager- well, mostly me offering my opinions (she’s pretty tight lipped when it comes to personnel issues- as she should be). I offered up some rumor mill names- like Joe Tuss, Maureen Pero and as of yesterday, former MVRPC director Mike Robinette- and her answer on all of them was “doesn’t live in the city”- as if the residency rule is the biggest impediment to bringing in a local hitter.

I also suggested that we don’t seem to take kindly to outsiders- witness the short Bill Estabrook tenure. And along the same vein- we’re often nothing but a stepping stone position for other outsiders – i.e. Valerie Lemmie.

The Mayor then asked if Jim Dinneen had been a good choice- to which I answered- in light of the way things work in this town- yes. However, if we want to move forward, we’re going to have to either be willing to take an outsider’s objective suggestions, or start believing in our current staff.

I’ve often said the mark of the best leader is that his 2nd and 3rd in command are absolutely prepared to step up onto center stage- so if the Mayor believed in Jim Dinneen, then maybe the search has been a waste- and it’s time to hand the reigns over to Stan Earley and let him run with the job he’s effectively doing now.

What do you think?

Mead moves out of Downtown- so what.

Just because a reporter asks a question, doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer.

The news that Mead is moving from Downtown to Kettering is like saying I walked across the street- from a big picture standpoint.

The jobs, the economic impact- will all be minimal to “Greater Dayton” as everyone must call the place we live (because just “Dayton” doesn’t give nods to all the provincial  people in the ‘burbs).

We caused this problem by having a “Port Authority” building new buildings for private companies- we caused it by allowing development beyond our needs- we caused this by not having a uni-gov, and most of all, by whining about the demise of downtown on a daily basis.

The “demise of Downtown” isn’t news- except to our dumbed down media that doesn’t believe people really want to read about major issues like war, stem cell research, the rich getting fat while the rest of us get screwed.

The job loss at Reynolds isn’t cataclysmic either. NCR shut down huge plants in Dayton in the 1970’s and the world didn’t end.

Life is defined by change- if it wasn’t, it would be deadly boring.

Mead made a business decision. The building formerly known as the Mead tower may have to adjust their rents to attract someone else, or wonder why we overbuilt office space with the Arcade tower (another example of government doing something it shouldn’t have any business doing)- but, when you get down to it- it’s not government’s responsibility to create jobs- it is responsible for providing an infrastructure and environment conducive to doing business- and that’s where we’ve failed.

So- when a reporter asks a question about a business moving- stick to talking about government issues- like simplifying the paperwork and filing dates for businesses or income tax collection. That’s what we really want to pay you for.

National Ride To Work day

Ride To Work, Inc.

Those of you who know me, know 2 things:

I walk to work, with my dog and the neighbors dog everyday.

I ride my motorcycle (1996 BMW R1100RS), scooter (1985 Yamaha Riva 125) or bicycle (A Kurt Buddendeck customized Raleigh mountain bike) almost everywhere I go. The car (1995 Lexus ES 300) hardly leaves the garage except to go to Sams Club (If Iams Chunks was the same price in 10lb bags as it is in 48lb bags this could be avoided) or taking friends to the Airport.

For those of you who commute long distances- it may start being practical to consider moving closer to your work. If you work downtown, at Miami Valley Hospital, NCR or UD, I highly recommend the South Park Historic District. I also highly recommend a scooter- and you can check out Scooter Source for an affordable ride.

Just think- my scooter gets almost 85mpg. How much money could you save?

It would also be a great day for the Dayton City Commission to start working on alternative parking solutions for 2 wheel and hybrid vehicles.

What do you think?