Economic Development gone wrong…

When I was still in college I worked at Multi-Service for a short stint to help them with marketing and sales. Mel Tatman hired me, his father, Ford, a crusty old man, fired me (for eating lunch at 3pm- because I was working through the normal lunch time).

The industrial laundry business was tough; a lot of EPA regulations, changing technologies, and environmental issues- plus Multi-Service had grown in a bunch of old buildings in the middle of the Huffman Historic District- not the ideal location for a business with lots of trucks and deliveries.

Thanks to constant pressure from Mike Osborne and Mike Turner, Multi-Service was forced/aided in a move to Radio Road by the City- with a sizeable grant. Once again, public money invested in a private business instead of in infrastructure. All intended to “keep jobs” in the city- instead of to provide real platforms for economic growth.

Unfortunately- here is the result:

Businessman could face jail time for environmental crimes

DAYTON — The president of an industrial laundry business pleaded himself and his company, Multi-Service, Inc., guilty Wednesday to federal environmental felony and misdemeanor charges, leaving him facing the possibility of up to three years in prison.Melvin L. Tatman, 61, will be sentenced Dec. 8 by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Rose. Federal guidelines recommend a prison sentence of between six months and a year.

Tatman’s company faces a fine of up to $1.2 million.

Tatman, president of the company since 1990 and its sole stockholder, pleaded guilty to knowingly violating a pretreatment standard of the Clean Water Act, a felony. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors of negligently violating pretreatment standards.

Although the evidence must have been compelling, I find it hard to believe that Melvin Tatman was doing something that he knew would harm the environment. But I do know, that local government really shouldn’t be investing our tax dollars in businesses- in the long run, it doesn’t seem to payoff.

Pay for performance for Politicians?

Chart showing median income in Dayton- and comparing metro areas nationallyWhen I first ran for Mayor against Richard Clay Dixon (and Mike Turner) I had proposed to tie my salary to the median income of the residents of Dayton- which back then was about $18,000 for a family of four. Didn’t make sense for a part-time Mayor to make more. That was when being Mayor of Dayton only paid about $28,000. It’s now up areound $36,000, but the median income is $25,000.

Why not tie salary to average income? Why not pay for performance? Why not have some metrics that matter- instead of always focusing on “job creation”- instead of on wealth creation (see the Chuck Horm post below)?

Somehow, we have to start looking at ways to do things different in Dayton- because it’s becoming obvious that our solutions of the past aren’t making the kind of progress we need.

Is it time for a unified areawide income tax?

OIA moving to Beavercreek isn’t news- but, could one reason they are moving is to give their employees an instant 2.25% pay raise?

Compare Beavercreek and Washington Township- both income tax free, to Dayton and you start to see an uneven playing field.

Maybe, it’s time to look at a regional income tax, administered by a regional organization (like MVRPC only better)- that can distribute a portion of the income taxes based on what works best of the region and the rest distributed by head count.

The costs of administering so many different jurisdictions income tax to business is a counterproductive one as well. Who is going to lead this idea?

Here is the article from Dayton Politics -from the Dayton Business Journal- that got this post started: » Blog Archive » Dayton marketing firm headed for Beavercreek

An Oregon District marketing company is moving to Beavercreek. OIA Marketing Communications will move from its Brown Street location to Signal Hill TechneCenter in Beavercreek by the end of the month, the company announced Monday.

Apparently Chuck Horn gets it.

I give credit where credit it due- and this response to the Greene by former State Senator Chuck Horn is right on the money.

And money is what it’s all about when we talk about economic development, three kinds of money:

  • money that circulates inside our region
  • money that leaves our region
  • and money that comes in from outside our region

Of the three- the last is the most important- it’s why things like Hamvention and the Great American Trap Shoot are real (to steal the Dayton Daily’s lame line) shot’s in the economic arm for the area- while a shopping development like the Greene are only marginal- when you figure in the added costs of police, infrastructure and canibalization within the local market.

I’ve said before- one of our best economic development tools is Sinclair Community College- and last I checked-Â most of the new jobs at the Greene don’t require a college education – if we don’t have more people earning real money- we won’t be able to shop at the stores that provide these low level jobs.

I’ve added bold italics to the part that I believe needs emphasis.

Another View: Retail jobs aren’t the answer to creating wealth
The following was written by former state Sen. and Kettering Mayor Charles Horn.

I read that the area’s newest shopping center will bring 3,000 new jobs to the area and nearly $400 million in new business. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember many years ago being the only dissenting vote on government subsidies being given to big-box retail establishments.


First, the use of “jobs” as a measure of economic growth and wealth creation is misleading. There are jobs that result in creating and exporting products and services from our region to other regions, states or countries. Clearly, those jobs create wealth within our region.

There are also “jobs” that provide retail distribution within the region and jobs that provide local services, such as funeral homes and barber shops. While these jobs are necessary for the community, they do not bring in out-of-region revenue, or create new wealth. They simply compete against one another.

To subsidize one is typically to take jobs from another. This explains why, despite all those jobs that have been promised over the years, we have not seen high growth in the total number of jobs.

Contrary to common practice at all levels of government, we should be using wealth creation as a major criterion for economic development programs, rather than the trivialized term “jobs.” Our programs generally subsidize wasteful movement from one area to another, creating little if any new wealth. This is true at the state and federal levels, as well as the local.

Admittedly, a case may be made for subsidizing the bringing of services to an area occasionally. But it should be done only as an exception.

The region should identify its potential wealth-creating resources and focus on assisting in their development. As these expand, the retail segment of our economy will prosper without government subsidy.

Government continues to support and expand an exceedingly wasteful system of pitting one entity against another to needlessly give away taxpayer dollars, at a time of great need to utilize resources carefully.

(For a comprehensive accounting of wasteful practices in the realm of “economic development,” go to the Web site of Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First, at His new book, The Great American Job Scam, is available free at www.

The first hurdle is to think and act as a region. We tend to talk regionally and act parochially. The mechanics of acting regionally are not simple, but they are attainable. Most of the obstacles are political.

On top of that, a good general rule is this: the money we put into what we call “jobs” would better be put into education and into the development of technology and ways for the region to use those technologies in the marketplace.

Above by: Former state Sen. and Kettering Mayor Charles Horn.

The question for Chuck Horn is: Who will lead the charge to overcome the political obstacles?

The question for the Dayton Daily News is: when will you step forward to lead the charge against stupid local leaders who continue the provincial thinking?

The question for the residents of Dayton (the region- not the city proper) is when will we realize that in order to gain power- we must be willing to surrender some?

The Greene and the region

Disneyland for shoppers has arrived in Dayton, it’s called The Greene, and it’s a good thing for all the wrong reasons.
It’s good for Dayton because it created the vehicle to bring more shopping choices to our market- and give us amenities that used to be a long car drive away. Instead of having to drive to Easton in Columbus to go to a Cheesecake Factory- we can drive to Beavercreek.
It has pumped money into the local economy from outside- which increases both the flow and the amount of money in the area- which is one of the key factors in true economic development. All good. The same reasoning could be applied to the gambling argument – why allow Ohio dollars to flow to Indiana because they have gambling and we don’t (I just don’t think the answer is to hand the casino licenses over to the racetrack owners).
The Greene will attract shoppers from a wider radius than the Fairfield Commons or the Dayton Mall just because it is new- and doesn’t replicate retailers.
On the other hand, our local economy is in a slump, and without other investment, and the ability to lure jobs, the slices of the shopping pie are getting cut thinner. We are in need of radical new tools to bring investment- and a new shopping environment is not enough. Big picture projects, innovative investment initiatives are needed to get our economic engine back on track.
Some suggestions include: the white water park, a world class sportsplex on the Parksides home site, light and high speed rail, vacant home giveaways, a shared focus and cooperation of all our local government entities etc.
My biggest problem with the Greene is the granting of tax abatements. However I can not fault the local leaders who decided to step on this slippery slope. Either our tax system has to be fair- and equal, or it needs to be abolished and rebuilt. Giving tax breaks to individual businesses needs to be eliminated at the national level. Tax dollars should be used to provide the services deemed necessary for the greater good- and to support the infrastructure that is needed for a free society. That does not include luxury shops and chain restaurants.
The hardest part to swallow- is the new urbanist architecture. Yes, it is the way things should be- but, the question is why couldn’t this happen in the center of town, instead of in a former field of trees?
The answer is bureaucracy and short sighted planners of the past. Our auto centric focus- with our highways, bypasses and high space requirements for parking all the cars has driven dollars away from valuable, economic engine type of development- to accommodating more vehicle storage. One of the reasons for the vitality of Manhattan is that there is no place to expand but up- and if they had to dedicate the 160+ or so square feet per car per person- Manhattan would look like Downtown Dayton.
Because space was so bountiful in our area- the cost to spread so cheap, we did expand, and keep continuing to sprawl- only requiring more roads, more space for cars, and more problems for all to maintain. The cost of ownership of all these roads is much higher than the cost of providing efficient and clean solutions like light rail and even diesel buses (when fully utilized).
Just imagine if instead of continuing our botched planning in Dayton, we had done these things in the last 10 years:
Built the Schuster Center at Fifth and Main where we instead built the Reibold Building parking garage. Built a hockey/basketball/concert hall on Dave Hall Plaza with an outdoor concert facility for the summer music festivals, built the baseball stadium on the corner of Fifth and Wayne- with home plate where the Dublin Pub is, and unleashed the parking requirements and liquor restrictions- as well as eased the building codes on the historic renovations- through the Oregon District.
We could have had the Greene built right along Fifth Street- with parking handled by the Transportation Center Garage and possibly another garage at Fifth and Wayne.
Every day, people would flock to concerts, conventions, ball games (year round), drinking, dining and shopping- all in the core of Downtown Dayton (well 5 blocks South). Fifth Street would be our entertainment and shopping mecca, instead, it will be on a former field, surrounded by garages, waiting for even more development to continue to sprawl.
Oops, we missed again.

Bumper stickers-

Saw a bumper sticker today; “If Kerry is the answer, it must be a stupid question”- not feeling up to a fight I avoided saying “If Bush is the answer- you must not question anything.”

It’s unfortunate that our political system has turned into a 2 option only system- and that we don’t have a none-of-the-above option.

This country deserves much brighter leadership- but I guess this is what we will get if we keep failing at educating our children, providing meaningful work, a living wage and adequate accessible health care.

The good news is- I was on my scooter- and the person with the bumper sticker was in a gas-guzzling boat- she won’t be able to afford to drive her sticker much longer.

The undeveloper.

Paul Hutchins of the eponymous Hutchins Commercial Realty is proving to be worthy of the title of “undeveloper.”
A few years back, Hutchins picked up a package deal of properties downtown from Marv Felman including The Fidelity Building at 5th and Main, and practically the whole block between E. 2nd and E. 3rd between Jefferson and St. Clair. They also took over Parking Management Incorporated- making them the largest operator of surface parking lots in Downtown Dayton.
When they made their move- they trumpeted loudly their plans to move the old Gem Savings clock tower from the Reynolds & Reynolds building to the corner of Third and Jefferson. When they realized no one would give them the money to do it- that plan quietly faded away.
They also ran Boston’s Bistro out of the Eva Felman apartments- along with Sir Speedy- with their grand plans of building competition to the Oregon District centered around Masque. Masque was a joint deal with Luke Liakos, owner of Diamond’s Cabaret. With their big rush to get Boston out- they seemed to overlook putting someone back in.
Next we had them tear down the former home of WTUE and WONE on Wilkinson at Third- to put in yet another parking lot. This building was formerly home to Architects Associated– who then moved to Suburbia. Boston’s moved to Harrison Township- Sir Speedy was the only business that actually stayed downtown, moving around the corner to Jefferson St.
Now we have Seattle East and the Upper Kut being forced out- so they can tear down yet another building in the name of progress. Not that there aren’t entire city blocks of surface parking lot available to build on (look just West of 111 W. First Street- where there are lots the size of a small farm plot).
Seattle East will not relocate downtown- and so another independently owned place to eat, drink and employee people in Downtown Dayton is being pushed out.
What will replace the Seattle East building? More than likely it’s the new building for CareSource- although officials aren’t saying anything. No mention has been made of the 2 amazing buildings to the East of Seattle East- one a vacant law office that is a phenomenal piece of architecture- and well preserved- the other a very old house that had been converted into 3 very rich condos.
Needless to say, Hutchins is a major player in Downtown- and the fate of the Downtown Dayton Partnership– it seems he is nothing but a profiteer, buying low and either selling high- or working on building a monopoly on parking in Downtown. The problem is- without showing some skills at developing his holdings- there won’t be anyone coming downtown to park if he keeps closing businesses- even if they are small.

Mitakides does a flip-flop

As I said- politics isn’t for everyone- and apparently, Jane Mitakides doesn’t have it in her to run against Turner this year.

It’s too bad- because after watching Dick Chema flounder like a fish out of water- it makes me wonder if someone didn’t do a skewed poll- that shows that Chema has a better name- even though he has no clue on how to win. Or that no one can beat Turner- at least out of the names available.

Read more on Dayton Politics- and then on to the DDN (which launched it’s new look today – very three years ago- but, hey- that’s OK- they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up). » Blog Archive » As previously reported by and denied by Mitakides…Mitakides is OUT!

After much posturing and denial Jane Mitakides has withdraw from the OH 3 special election to choose a Democrat to oppose Mike Turner.

If Jane Mitakides is reading this- I’m disappointed with you.

Politics isn’t for everyone.

When I ran for Mayor of Dayton at age 27 I thought I knew it all. Just point out what’s wrong, and explain what you would do different. I had an 11×17 campaign piece with positions on everything- if you look at it today, I looked like an oracle, but I didn’t get elected, taken seriously, or help myself.
That was the race where Mike Turner got his start. I was there, and I know what kind of campaigner he is, where he gets his money, his support and who buys his favor. There are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for his backers- and, frankly, running against him in a gerrymandered district is difficult enough, even for a well seasoned pro with strong backing.
I was excited to hear Richard Chema had entered the race when I read about it last week. On paper, he sounded like just the guy who had a shot- until I met him tonight, and watched him do hari-kari on the dais of the Montgomery County Democratic Party meeting hall. It was painful to watch. Continue reading

Trains, rails and a whole lot of hot air.

I attended the Grassroots Greater Dayton meeting tonight. I find it amazing how every meeting of this organization draws a different crowd (I apologize for not telling my loyal readers in advance of this one). Each audience is different- focused on their own agendas, which is a big part of the reason that we have so many jurisdictions and organizations in this community- no big leaders, no big vision, and unfortunately- no action.
As always- I was late (5:30 meetings that aren’t paying me are hard for me to tear away from the office). This time it was only 20 minutes.
The room was packed- with a who’s who of the Dayton old guard. I’m not here to drop names- but, the movers and shakers behind the scenes were all there- as well as the entire 2007 Montgomery County Commission (no Chuck Curran wasn’t there).
The presentation by former MVRPC director Mike Robinette had the people convinced that this 80 million dollar light rail program was doable, and smart. The problem was that this isn’t the first plan, and probably won’t be the last. We seem to be great on planning and pathetic on implementation.
In fact one guest in attendance reminded us that the first rail plan was in 1896- that’s even before Judge Walter Rice (in attendance) started trying to be involved in things he should stay out of (at least until he starts clearing his docket faster).
I brought up my idea of building a high speed rail link between Middletown and Dayton instead of putting the money into both the Austin Road interchange and the Sinclair Community College Warren County campus- it seemed well received.
Others asked how do we get the ball rolling- and that is where the meeting failed, in my opinion- because there was no plan of action.
What it came down to was that the only people who seemingly hadn’t supported this light rail concept was the County Commission- and Commissioner Debbie Lieberman pledged to try to get the existing Commission to make their stands known.
That doesn’t exactly get this train on the tracks. We have to do better.
The fact is- building interchanges, more roads, more buildings is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Einstein’s definition of insanity applies: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
We have to make some drastic changes in our thinking and our leadership- the question is who will be the leaders?
Any suggestions? Any takers?