As promised in our last issue, Cincy Business is aiming a spotlight at challenges facing communities in the Tristate. As you will see, it's not just the bad news that catches or holds our attention

CRIME

A Clean Sweep?

The Justice Department is calling late October's Operation Falcon III the largest nationwide roundup of people wanted for everything from theft to felonious assault and sex crimes. Of the 11,000 arrests made across the country, 83 were here in Cincinnati. But are our streets any safer? Soon after the sting, a man and a teen were killed in the exact same spot in Lincoln Heights within 24 hours of each other, and a mother was raped in her Winton Terrace apartment. A Colerain Township melee forced a lockdown and school-wide search for weapons at nearby Northwest High School. More than 50 people reportedly were involved, using hammers, knives and clubs. A mother and son were stabbed, and 10 people were arrested. And what about younger kids? The 14-year-old who was shot and killed while stealing a car in Kennedy Heights already had a lengthy juvenile rap sheet. Then there was the teen in Winton Place who was shot in the leg after getting into an argument with another teen while trick-or-treating.

Progress report: Repeat after us, "A new county jail isn't enough."

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Riverfront South

Now that Newport has struck a master development deal with Bill Butler's Corporex, real work can commence on an $800-million development that could be called "The Banks South" instead of "Ovation." Yes, this is the same Bill Butler who withdrew from The Banks (North) deal. Both projects are conceived as mixed use, 13-acre developments that envelop residential, retail, restaurants, offices, hotels, entertainment and parking. While the Cincinnati version was in another holding pattern, pending the outcome of the Hamilton County commissioner election, the Kentuckians annouced construction might begin on their big riverview playground within a year. We're not ready to concede that The Banks North is a figment of too many imaginations. But reality is beginning to bite at us like Lewis Carroll's proverbial Jabberwocky: The riverfront still is a collection of dirt piles, loose gravel and empty asphalt.

Progress report: We think "Alice" shouldn't live here anymore.

EDUCATION

The Power of Four

There is not another metro area in America that boasts four"”that's right, four"”college entrepreneurship programs ranked in the top 25. Here's the local power lineup, according to the Princeton Review and Entrepreneurship magazine's 2006 ratings: Dayton University (No. 5), Xavier University (No. 11), Miami University (No. 19) and Northern Kentucky University (No. 23). Dayton also captured the No. 16 spot among best graduate entrepreneurship programs. NKU's ranking is especially sweet as the university strives to improve academics and earn more respect. "Educated workforce" has become a mantra for attracting, retaining and growing businesses, especially small entrepreneurial enterprises. Thanks to supporters such as Reds owner Robert Castellini, we may have the largest incubator of entrepreneurial talent in the country. Local leaders need to get more creative about how to keep and nurture that talent.

Progress report: In some ways, our region is richer than we realize.

ARTS & CULTURE

Pop Goes the Easel

Linda Shearer resigned this fall as director of the Contemporary Arts Center, meaning all three CEOs at the city's three art museums"”the Cincinnati Art Museum, Taft Museum of Art and the CAC"”have departed in recent months. With Timothy Rub, Phillip Long and Shearer all out of here, this might be the time to re-visualize what an art museum should, and shouldn't, be. As Cincy Business pointed out in a story earlier this year, too many visual arts patrons are being drawn out of town to blockbuster shows put on by the Dayton Art Institute and others. In a Top 10 list of top-drawing art exhibits in recent years, Dayton placed five. Only one Cincy exhibit"”the Cincinnati Art Museum's 1997 show "Women in Ancient Egypt""”made that list. Should every art museum show be designed around celebrity art? Of course not. High falutin' art is fine. But throw at least one blockbuster a year into the framework.

Progress report: We'll take fewer frames, more fame.

TRANSPORTATION

Unclogging Northern Arteries

It's obvious to anyone who lives or works in Butler County, or drives through it on a regular basis, that the remarkable growth there"”especially in West Chester and Liberty Township"”depends greatly on traffic flow on Interstate 75 and the main connecting arteries. The good news: the Butler County Transportation Improvement District is moving forward toward acquiring land for the $50 million Liberty interchange at I-75 and Hamilton-Mason Road. Ideally, construction will begin in spring 2008, at the same time when the Ohio Department of Transportation begins widening 75 (from six lanes to eight), from Tylersville Road to Middletown. That $120-million project is expected to take two years. A pessimist would say this means four years of congestion and orange barrel frustrations, but at least the pieces are falling in place to make the Cincinnati-Dayton traffic flow much smoother.

Progress report: Not life in the fast lane, yet, but we're steering in the right direction.