Monday, May 18, 2009

Attracting New Employers

I was talking with a former colleague the other night. She had just accepted a position with a major firm in Dayton but plans on commuting from Columbus for the near future. Given the likelihood that gas prices will rise, I asked her if she was planning to eventually move to Dayton. She wasn’t in favor of moving as, according to her, Dayton has a much higher per capita crime rate than Columbus. I found this an interesting perspective as one who writes about the safety and security of communities.

Dayton has been beset by a number of corporations (NCR, Mead) leaving the area. No new corporations have located to Dayton to replace those that have departed. The main reason typically given is the high taxes and licenses required by the state but the other reason may be a perception that Dayton isn’t safe. According to crime statistics from the Dayton Police, there have been 355 arrests for violent crimes to date. This seems to be consistent for the last two years.

Cincinnati crime statistics are grouped differently making a comparison a little harder. Year to date, Cincinnati has had 1,760 total arrests to date compared to 1,971 last year.
Statistics are always an intriguing argument and you can often conclude completely opposite conclusions from the same data points. Dayton is smaller than Cincinnati so you would expect the total numbers to be correspondingly bigger. Cincinnati does seem to have reduced the overall number of arrest while Dayton has remained steady. One might conclude that a reduction in crime indicates an aggressive approach to maintaining a safe community. It might also reflect the larger number of police agencies in and around the Cincinnati area compared to Dayton.

My real point is though whatever the facts may be, the perception of a community being less safe than another has much impact on business than we may first realize. Cincinnati’s mayor is trying to associate himself with a positive brand image for the Cincinnati. Mayor Mallory has met with sharp criticism for this tactic but can understand his desire to promote a positive image for the city.

I don’t get the Dayton Daily News anymore so can’t really speak to how Mayor McLin is promoting Dayton’s image. Based on my purely anecdotal experience, it appears there may be some opportunity for improvement.

Communities looking to attract new businesses can begin by showcasing the safety and security of local area. Too often this gets overlooked when it comes time to pass fire and police levies. Taxpayers become less willing to support levies when they don’t understand the benefit to themselves or when there have been multiple requests to support levies.
Having first rate fire and police agencies should be part of the communities strategic plan to attract new businesses. In some cases, it may become more prudent to pursue regional approach with multiple small municipalities sharing the cost versus establishing separate departments in each town. The political sensitivity towards regional service can be touch and may not always be a viable option. Whenever possible though, looking at how best to make the community safer and thus more attractive to employers is one of the better approaches.

No comments: