By Sue Botos
Although County Executive Ed FitzGerald is encouraging area mayors and community leaders to support his proposed anti-poaching protocol, Rocky River city officials are carefully reviewing the measure before jumping on the bandwagon.
Mayor Pam Bobst stated recently that further discussion is needed before City Council can join with the 14 other municipalities which have supported the proposal. The measure, along with its $100 million fund has not been finalized by the county.
“County Council has not passed this. Funding and legislation have not been finalized. We’re taking some small steps. We’re listening, but some steps have to be taken at the city level,” Bobst said. She compaired the proposal to an agreement issued by the Cleveland Division of Water which also addressed poaching and revenue sharing. The measure was not funded, and few communities signed on.
Designed to prevent cities from attempting to lure businesses from their neighbors, FitzGerald unveiled the draft of an “Anti-Poaching Protocol” to County Council in June. He asked that the county’s mayors add their input.
In a statement, FitzGerald said, “They (the mayors) wanted to stress the positive, avoid undue administrative burdens and respect businesses’ requests for confidentiality. Also some communities do not favor revenue sharing and we acknowledge that. The mayors made good points, so we made changes and added clarifications.”
According to information provided by the county, communities agreeing to the plan, which has been renamed the “Business Attraction and Anti-Poaching Protocol,” would agree to:
-identify an economic development point person and submit information to a central database;
-not actively pursue local businesses that have not indicated a desire to move;
-if confidentiality is not requested, notify the home community if contacted by a business considering relocation; and,
-discuss with the home community the move and the possibility of a revenue sharing agreement, though no commitment to enter into such an agreement is required.
The last condition would sit especially well with Rocky River officials, who do not favor revenue sharing. “This has always been an issue,” said Bobst, who commented that under this proposal, there is at least a provision for tax sharing among a businesses’ former and new community for three years.
The proposal by FitzGerald came about largely in response to the planned move of American Greetings from cash-strapped Brooklyn to the wealthier Westlake. Information provided by the county stated that Brooklyn was the only one of five cities vying for the greeting card giant to offer a formal package, including renovation of company headquarters, reduction of taxes and easement of traffic situations.
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough has maintained that his city did nothing to overtly lure American Greetings from Brooklyn, stating that the company had been considering relocation for more than a year, and that Westlake met its criteria. The city’s only written offer came after announcement of the move and included $11 million in infrastructure improvements, help with financing, tax exemptions, loans and grants.
American Greetings was also considering locations in Illinois, Beachwood, Brecksville and Independence.
Other council members shared Bobst’s caution when considering the anti-poaching proposal. Councilman at large Dave Furry called it, “All pomp and no circumstance.”
“We’ve never gotten near anything like that. We’ve never gone after anyone’s businesses,” stated council president Jim Moran. Speaking to the proposal by the county, he added, “The concept is great as long as everyone signs it. I have no problem with that.”
Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers, who’s City Council passed a resolution in November supporting the issue, looks upon this as an opportunity to think in terms of being part of the county, rather than an individual municipality. “The elements for this agreement lay the foundation for better regional cooperation and advancement in a more equitable manner. I have grown to understand and appreciate that Lakewood and all Cuyahoga communities need to transcend from viewing ourselves as being a community in Cuyahoga County towards a community that is part of Cuyahoga County.”