the possibilities for collaboration. “That makes it difficult to use clusters as the panacea,” she said.
Ms. Brachman also agreed with Mr. Timken that Ohio is a state with antiquated governance systems and high costs. “These detract from the innovation focus we need, from business development, and tends to promote interlocal competition and ‘poaching’ that undercuts regional competitive capacity.” She said that 86 percent of states have fewer governments per 100 square miles than Ohio.
The state suffers from a confusing combination of historic factors and modern sprawl. In the early agricultural economy, county lines were drawn so that one could travel to the county seat and home again in a horse and buggy from anywhere in the county in one day. Agrarian economies were more localized, and not easily compatible with today’s global economy based in metro regions. Land consumption, or sprawl, has outpaced population growth, and sprawl without population growth results in more local government.
At the same time, Ms. Brachman added, there are opportunities. For example, the state’s economic history is defined by pockets of concentrated industrial activity rooted in the major cities. Because there are seven or eight of those, they present an opportunity exceeding other states, most of which (Illinois, Indiana) have only one major city. “Theoretically,” she said, “if the metro and regional economies are our drivers, we have many of those. We just have to figure out how to leverage them and return ourselves to a basis where each of these cities can thrive uniquely. We can also make good use of multiple anchor institutions rooted by place, such as the University of Cincinnati, the Uptown Consortium, and University Circle in Cleveland.
The Need for Governance Reform
In planning next steps, Ms. Brachman said, the state needs to be “very intentional,” beginning by encouraging natural clusters, but also by removing obstacles, especially through governance reform. “Otherwise these will continue to undercut our competitiveness and prosperity,” she said. “The role of governance should be to facilitate, not hinder, cluster growth.”
Ms. Brachman listed several suggested ways to bring about local governance reform. First, creation of a Governance Reform Commission, which would collect data and monitor the growth and needs of those governments. Second, she suggested the creation of a framework for pooling resources regionally, a form of revenue sharing in which “the state needs to be playing a much bigger role. We also need to make mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures more ‘permissive.’” In many cases, she said, even if mergers of small government entities were shown to be desirable, as between a city and county. They are not permitted under state law. Finally, she suggested that more data needs to be collected on local government costs. All of these steps, she said, must be taken “in the service of creating a more