There’s a buzz about Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky lately.

The region’s growing entrepreneurial community is getting national attention. The restoration in Over-the-Rhine has been cited as a model. There’s vibrancy around the area’s restaurant scene and this summer the region will be in the national spotlight hosting the Major League All-Star Game.

How can the region sustain and build on that momentum?

That was the focus of Cincy Magazine’s annual Power 100 Leadership Forum in February presented with the University of Cincinnati Linder College of Business and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Several hundred people participated in the annual breakfast at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza to hear some of the region’s movers and shakers discuss how to sustain the region’s competitive edge.

Borrowing UC President Santa Ono’s #hottestcollegeinAmerica hashtag, Brian Carley, Chamber president, noted, “ I think we’re the #hottestcityinAmerica. We have a lot going on.”

He also cautioned, “But we have some work to do. We need more population in general, and we need more young professionals.”

He pointed to chamber programs to expose corporate interns to the city. “We’ve all got to think about ways we can connect with people and get them to come here for one reason or another, to get some stickiness for this region,” he says.

He was joined on the Power 100 panel by John F. Barrett, chairman, president and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group; Johnna Reeder, president and CEO of the Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Cincinnati; and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. David Szymanski, dean of the Lindner School, moderated the discussion.

Keeping and attracting talent to sustain the region’s growth was a major theme.

“A big thing for me, for the city’s future, is talent production and talent attraction,” Sittenfeld says. “There’s no better thing we can do for our companies and our city than making sure from the beginning that we’re producing the most competitive students anywhere in the country. That’s going to determine how far we go.”

Reeder, who leads the 15-county regional economic development effort, says, “In 2014, 69 percent of tech companies said they couldn’t find enough talent…we need to talk about talent attraction programs. We need to focus on not only getting the right graduates with the right degrees and keeping them here, but we also need to get more people to move here. It’s not just young people. We need seasoned and experienced talent.”

A Fortune 50 executive, Sittenfeld says, told him that on the list of things companies look for in communities when planning a new facility, talent is first, followed by the ability to move goods and people, the cost of living and the quality of life. Tax incentives were fifth on the list, he says. “If we’re paying people to come here they probably won’t stay.”

Sittenfeld says quality of life and cost of living are largely interchangeable for millennials who comprise the biggest chunk of the workforce.

“If we want to attract millennials, which by the way happen to be the biggest generation in American history, you need to focus on quality of life,” he says.

Barrett, however, cautions, “We’ve got to press harder on better and better jobs; that’s what brings people to town. The culture [and] entertainment is important, but if you want to keep getting better, you’ve got to get more good-paying jobs. “

Still, all the talent in the world may not mean much, if nobody knows who you are.

Reeder says site selection consultants tell her, “It’s not that Greater Cincinnati has a bad reputation. It’s that we don’t have a reputation at all!”

She says that’s a problem but also an opportunity for the community to talk about the advantages it has.

Carley says it’s also important to take a long-term view when making community investments.

“It’s important to take risks and make investments because they take time to pan out,” he says.

About 25 years ago, Barrett pointed out, Western & Southern was among the early investors in OTR, building 115-units of housing on Walnut Street. “I wasn’t sure it would work, but it’s been a huge success,” he says. “The thing I think we have to worry about, though, is that it all works economically. We can’t over-subsidize. People have to have skin in the game.”

Asked how the region might look 15 years from now, Reeder says she hopes it is a place of full inclusion.

“A place where those who don’t look like you, don’t act like you or, God forbid, didn’t go to your high school, would be accepted,” she says, drawing a laugh.

Turning serious, she says, “We need to be a community where different ideas and points of view are respected in all walks of life. We need to be known as a place where anybody can be somebody.”

Sponsor profiles

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
The law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP has a rich history dating to 1885. Its partners have included former U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft and former Cincinnati Mayor Charles Taft II, both sons of former President William Howard Taft. Through a series of successful mergers, Taft has become a premier regional firm with more than 400 attorneys in seven Midwestern cities and Phoenix, Ariz.

Taft is ranked as one of the “Best Law Firms” of 2015 by U.S. News Media Group. In addition, 139 Taft attorneys are ranked in the 2015 edition of Best Lawyers in America.

Dayton, Ohio-based Aileron is dedicated to helping private businesses employ disciplined approaches to raise their overall effectiveness. These efforts evolved into a simplified, proven approach to professional management that empowers private businesses to reach new levels of growth.

Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield
Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Ohio, one of the state’s oldest and largest health insurers, marked its 75th anniversary last year. The company provides health insurance to 3.3 million Ohioans. It employs more than 1,200 in two buildings in Deerfield Township, its home for nearly 20 years, and another 1,500 work from their homes in the area.

Porsche Cars of North America
Porsche Cars North America, Inc. is the exclusive importer of Porsche sports cars and sport utility vehicles for the United States. Established in 1984, it is a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG. PCNA employs approximately 275 people who provide Porsche vehicles, parts, service, marketing and training for its 189 dealers. The dealers, in turn, provide Porsche owners with best-in-class service.

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
Located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, the hotel is a National Historic Landmark and one of the finest examples of French Art Deco. It offers more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space including three ballrooms and 28 flexible rooms.

Orchids at Palm Court is the hotel’s AAA Four-Diamond and Forbes Four Star fine dining restaurant.

ITA Audio Visual Solutions
Since 1982, ITA has provided best-in-class audio-visual services and integrated technology to health care institutions, universities and more.

Nonprofit Beneficiary

DePaul Cristo Rey
DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Clifton is the 24th school in the national Cristo Rey Network that provides quality Catholic, college-preparatory education to young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. All Cristo Rey Network schools use a rigorous academic model supported by effective instruction to prepare students with a broad range of academic abilities for college.