A group of young professionals from Lexington visited Columbus recently to gain some insights on downtown development.

Tips from Columbus

Last 5 posts by Ed Morrison

You might also like:

8 Responses to “BFD Learning Moment: Lexington goes to Columbus”

  1. roldo bartimole Says:

    What did they learn? How to give developers more freebies to develop more new that destroys old.

    I’ve seen so much of this nonsense of cities sending people to other cities to learn some magic. In the early 1990s city after city sent people to Cleveland to study how Cleveland was the Comeback City. Here we are in 2008. Where did the comeback go?

    Haven’t we learned that giving to these moochers won’t solve the problems of the cities.

  2. Ed Morrison Says:


    I heartily disagree with your view. Sending people to other cities is one of the best ways to learn. It works extremely well.

    You are sadly (although understandably) jaded with regard to what has happened in Cleveland. The problem, in my view, was not the incentives, so much as the failure of the private sector leaders in Cleveland to execute a strategy of privately-led downtown development.

  3. roldo bartimole Says:

    No, Ed, I don’t think so.

    The building of sports facilities is happening all over the country. In NYC, as you know, nearly every major league team is having a new facility built for it.

    Convention center are similarly the craze.

    And new condo development, new restaurants in downtown, subsidized directly and by heavy infrastructure expenditures as in the Warehouse District, the Euclid Corridor, indiscriminate tax abatements and tax exemptions are the norm.

    I have nothing against the exchange of ideas. However, what we have is an exchange, it seems to me, of hype and the hype has more to do with how you get new stuff built or renewed with heavy public investment.

    Because I was one of the very few critics of Gateway, reporters, typically accompanying chamber of commerce visitors seeking advice from Cleveland leaders on “how it is done,” contacted me because they wanted one sentence that indicated some grousing and opposition. It’s called balancing your story when it isn’t balancing at all but ass-covering.

    I agree that exchange of information can be helpful. But these trips by teams from one city to another are really good time trips in many cases and not true information seeking.

    You can get insight into programs elsewhere without a team visit.

  4. Ed Morrison Says:


    You cynicism loses me. Sorry.

    From where I sit, you are confusing the building of convention and sport facilities with the task of learning about how cities need to compete in today’s global world.

    I agree that convention centers and sport facilities (and the deep incentives they attract) are not sound strategy.

    But that’s different from taking trips out to figure what works.

    I’ve been one a number of these benchmarking trips. About a year ago, I led 200 civic leaders (all ages) on a three day visit to Oklahoma City, where I had worked for about 7 years designing and guiding the Chamber’s strategy.

    The folks from Lexington learned a lot, and most of these leaders, I think, would point to the OKC trip as transformative.

    Your criticism of these trips misses the mark, I’m sorry to say. It seems to me, your opinions have been shaped too much by your experiences with a dysfunctional leadership here in Cleveland.

    One of the problems in Cleveland, I think, is that not enough civic leaders get out to see what other communities are doing. They rely too much on paid staff. They also do not recognize that a handful of real estate developers have largely co-opted the chamber.

    The GCP moves from project to project without much of an overall strategy of where Cleveland should be heading. (Contrast Cleveland with Akron and the emerging strategy in Yougstown.)

    These visits accelerate learning. In the past year or so, Milwaukee has sent delegations to Denver and Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City has sent a delegation to Indianapolis. Charlotte has visited Philadelphia. The list goes on.

  5. roldo bartimole Says:

    Well, Ed, I know this is your business. But I can’t see running from city to city as an answer, especially when most are not dealing with the most significant problem – poverty and its related causes.

    When I see posts that suggest what this city is doing, what that city is doing and the intimation at least is that we copy it just seems rather frentically pointing here and there.

    Hopefully, Obama will be elected and the financial crisis will force him to look at poverty and put programs that worked in the New Deal back so that people we don’t hear about from him now – namely the poor, not just the “middle class” – get a break.

  6. Carole Cohen Says:

    I would agree that we have to be our own brand, our own City; but I also think going to other places to learn what they are doing, hear their ideas, picking their brains first hand with good questions, can only help our city leaders brainstorm in creative and useful ways about what can work here.

    Creative initiative needs to be taken, but isn’t it a good idea to find out what worked and didn’t work about other programs before implementing something here?

  7. Ed Morrison Says:

    Here’s an example of Indianapolis learning lessons from Denver:


    This practice is very common among cities on the move. Business firms do benchmarking visits all the time to learn.

    The same is true for civic leaders in cities seeking to keep ahead of the transformations we are facing.

  8. roldo bartimole Says:

    Ed, the Denver trip by 60 business, civic and political people is just the kind of thing that I believe doesn’t make sense. It might help business in Denver with that many people spending money there for a few days.

    However, if there are great ideas on mass transit that could be learned, they could be learned a lot cheaper in other ways.

    Newspaper stories about these visits don’t move me. I’ve seen (and even done and talked with reporters from other cities about) these stories over and over.

    We all know what the problem with mass transit is – lack of money and an automobile society that doesn’t want to forgo their vehicles, nor do the auto makers want mass transit.

    Mass transit needs massive subsidization. And I won’t charge you anything for that advice and you don’t have to go to Denver either.