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President Obama Shifts Attention Toward Economy, Cities in 2013 State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama (D) delivered the annual State of the Union address last evening. The hour-long speech covered a wide range of topics including gun control, military policy, immigration reform, voting rights, domestic economic programs, education reform, and energy policy.

One of the most-discussed topics of the evening was when the President announced his aspirations to see the national minimum wage raised to $9 an hour. The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour results in an annual income of $14,500 – a number the President says keeps families with two minimum wage earners below the poverty line.

In 2006, Ohioans voted to raise the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 an hour, with an annual cost-of-living escalator.

“This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families,” President Obama stated. “It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.”

Brent Spence Bridge Alternative 1

Brent Spence Bridge Alternative 2
The President called for a “Fix-It-First” program during his State of the Union address, but will it make a difference for Cincinnati’s Brent Spence Bridge Rehabilitation/Replacement project? Brent Spence Bridge replacement Alternative 1 (TOP) and Alternative 2 (BOTTOM) renderings provided.

Since the last time Congress voted to increase the federal minimum wage, which is effective for all states that have a minimum wage lower than the federal level, 19 different states have voted to raise their respective rates. The President’s $9 an hour proposal with an annual cost-of-living escalator would place it above every state in the union with the exception of Washington which pays its lowest earning workers $9.19 an hour.

In addition to raising the pay for the nation’s lowest earners, the President also pushed for new programs meant to spur job growth in a new economy. He called for the reform of high school education to more effectively train graduates to be able to fill high-tech jobs.

He also asked Congress to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation hubs, modeled after the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) established in Youngstown, OH in August 2012. Those cities selected, the President says, would work to partner businesses with the Department of Defense and Energy.

The President stated that the goal is to transform “regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs” in an effort to jumpstart the next revolution in manufacturing.

The advanced manufacturing policy proposal is one that should certainly catch the attention of local policy leaders as they work to transform Cincinnati’s Mill Creek Valley into a productive economic engine for the 21st century, as laid out in the Growth & Opportunities Cincinnati Plan published in 2008.

Another point of emphasis during the President’s first State of the Union address of his second term revolved around repairing the nation’s existing built environment.

To that end, he discussed retrofitting buildings to become more energy efficient, and announced a goal to cut energy wasted by homes and businesses in half over the next 20 years. President Obama continued by calling for a program that would prioritize infrastructure spending on existing assets in need of repair, like Ohio and Kentucky’s combined 4,054 deficient bridges.

“I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs,” said President Obama. “And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.”

Perhaps the biggest bi-partisan applause of the night went to the President’s condemnation of gun violence and call for action to prevent further atrocities like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and those that occur on the streets of America’s cities every day.

“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight,” President Obama clarified. “But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.”

Arts & Entertainment News

Queen City Scene: Fall 2010

Fall is firmly taking root in Cincinnati, so now makes for as good a time as any to take a spin through Cincinnati over the past few weeks.  Check out progress at major construction projects like The Banks and Great American Tower, but also take in some unique perspectives from around town.

This collection includes 22 photographs from throughout Cincinnati during the late summer of 2010.  Neighborhoods captured include Northside, Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton Heights, Mt. Adams, Norwood, Oakley, and Camp Washington.

Arts & Entertainment Business Development News

American Sign Museum hopes to make Cincinnati national center for research and information

The American Sign Museum in Walnut Hills opened in 2005 and has since steadily gained in popularity while attracting visitors from across the country. When director and founder Tod Swormstedt first conceived the idea for the museum, he had no collection and was going through a self-proclaimed mid-life crisis. Years later, however, the museum’s success has allowed him to think much bigger and his ambitions have grown exponentially.

In January, 2012, Swormstedt is hoping to move his popular museum into a new 43,000 square-foot historic building in Camp Washington (map) called Machine Flats. So far $1.6 million has been put towards the new museum with an additional $800,000 needed before they can officially move into the entire building. To date, approximately 98 percent of those funds have been donated by the sign industry.

Swormstedt’s goal for the new space is to make Cincinnati the National Center for Sign Research & Information. He says that the museum will move beyond merely displaying the unique collection of historic signs and memorabilia, and move towards a more comprehensive approach to sign information and education.

“The history of signs is a micro-history of design trends and technology in the U.S., and I want to capitalize on that right here in Cincinnati,” says Swormstedt, who sees the new museum as fitting in perfectly with Agenda 360’s Regional Action Plan and the recent designation of Cincinnati as a Hub of Innovation & Opportunity in the area of Consumer Marketing.

The new building will eventually be split into two main sections: a museum that will feature the history of signs, and a training facility that will focus on the usage and future development of signage. The museum section of the new space will feature three-dimensional artificial storefronts that will allow the historic signs to be displayed in their original form, both on the buildings and in storefront windows.

However, it is in the new training facility where Swormstedt sees the most potential for community growth. His hopes are to eventually work with the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business and College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning to create a space where students can learn about the value, design, structure and history of signs. Ultimately Swormstedt views the new museum as a way to blend some of Cincinnati’s most valuable assets – history, art, design and commerce.

The American Sign Museum is currently located at 2515 Essex Place in Walnut Hills and is open to the public on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.  All other times must be scheduled by appointment at (513) 258-4020 or

Business Development News Politics

CPA to host seminar on historic building receivership – 8/7

The Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) will be hosting a seminar on historic building receivership Saturday, August 7 in Camp Washington. The executive director of the Camp Washington Community Board will be in attendance to discuss that neighborhood’s approach to saving, renovating, and reselling buildings that might have otherwise been lost due to neglect.

Originally settled in 1846, Camp Washington is one of Cincinnati’s many historic neighborhoods. Over time the neighborhood has seen dramatic changes with the introduction of Interstate-75 in the mid-twentieth century. Since that time the community has dealt with a neighborhood street grid detached from its surrounding neighbors while also trying to adjust to changing demographics that led to disinvestment, and back to popularity today.

The issues faced by the historic Camp Washington neighborhood are similar to what many inner-city neighborhoods faced during the second half of the 20th century. Its urban revival is a narrative that is also ringing true with others, but the neighborhood’s historic preservation success is an element CPA believes can help other neighborhoods around the region.

CPA’s Saving Buildings With Receivership seminar will take place from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, August 7 at 2951 Sidney Avenue. The seminar will include a tour of a current receivership project underway in Camp Washington. Reservations are required due to limited space. Those interested can register for $5 by contacting CPA at (513) 721-4506 or  You can also RSVP for the event on Facebook.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Hive13 celebrates first year as Cincinnati’s hackerspace

A self-driving remote control car, a refurbished arcade game cabinet, and a MakerBot 3D printer are just a few of the things you may find at the Hive13 hackerspace.  Hive13 is not just a physical location, it has also become a community where hackers, artists, and other creatives come together to share ideas and work on projects they dream up.

In 2009, a group of 20 people began talking about bringing a hackerspace to Cincinnati.  After two months of planning, they moved into a former Camp Washington warehouse and set up shop.  Today, members of Hive13 have 24-hour access to the workspace and a variety of tools to help them with their projects.

Hive13 is still acquiring new tools — like a laser cutter that can pierce wood, plastic, or metal — and working on new projects — like a weather balloon connected to an Android-powered cell phone for communications.

To celebrate their first year of operation, Hive13 is throwing a party on Saturday, July 24 at their hackerspace, located at 2929 Spring Grove Avenue.  Music, refreshments, and games will start around 7pm.  One of the activities, at the party, will be “laser graffiti,” which allows you to virtually graffiti a building using a laser, webcam, and projector.  A silent auction will also be held to raise money for the group.

Follow @Hive13 on Twitter to stay up-to-date, and learn more about the group from this Soapbox Cincinnati video: