Retailers and Restaurants Ask Hamilton County to Keep Employees Downtown

They say loss of 1,200 jobs would undercut downtown vitality, create empty parking lots, and plywood-covered buildings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. CINCINNATI (September 7, 2023) Shocked with the critical lack of weekday returning worker traffic to downtown Cincinnati, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM) joined with the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) to plead with the Hamilton County leadership to retain their more than 1,200 employees in a Downtown business location.

Hamilton County is currently seeking proposals to move as many as 1,200 county employees to new office space. The OCRM and ORA are concerned that Hamilton County is leaning towards a location outside of downtown.

“We hear Hamilton County is favoring a building in Bond Hill, nearly seven miles from their current Downtown location,” said Evan Andrews, Montgomery Inn vice president and chair of the Cincinnati Restaurant Alliance.  “They are considering this, despite a recent University of Toronto School of Cities study that shows Cincinnati has seen only 57 per cent of its downtown workers returning to their downtown offices post-pandemic. This move would be ruinous to our downtown and a stab at the heart of Southwest Ohio’s economic and cultural vitality.”

“Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati have spent years building Downtown Cincinnati into the vibrant centerpiece of the County. County leadership in particular set the example by developing the Banks, the stadiums and the incredible Cincinnati skyline that now defines our city,” said Andrews.

“We are advocates for the health of downtown Cincinnati,” said Gordon Gough, President of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. “Since there are nearly 100 retail stores and retail corporate centers located in Cincinnati’s downtown district, the loss of this many downtown-based employees could have a devastating “ripple effect” impact on downtown, the region and our members that have locations downtown and Over-the-Rhine. We sincerely believe that if Hamilton County leadership keeps its employees downtown it will set the example for other employers to step up and protect the heart of our region.”

Ever since the pandemic when employees had to work from home, both organizations and their members have been concerned about the health of Ohio downtowns. Some downtowns are recovering faster than others.

Data from a recent study by the University of Toronto School of Cities indicates that only 57 percent of downtown employees have returned to downtown post-COVID compared to 89 percent in Columbus.

“Hamilton County’s downtown Cincinnati nucleus appears to be very fragile.  If the County moves out, then other downtown businesses may do the same and trigger a total collapse of our downtown.  And if the downtown collapses, then the region collapses,” said Gough.  “All County taxpayers, including our members, deserve not only the best location in terms of delivering County services, but also the location that will best keep the county and region healthy and thriving.”

The Ohio Retail Merchants and the Ohio Restaurant Association’s Cincinnati Restaurant Alliance together have close to 200 member businesses in Downtown employing more than 5,000 downtown full-time and part-time workers. Annual payroll for those workers exceeds $100 million annually.



To talk with an OCRM or ORA member, please contact:

Libby Coulton

Coulton Communications