Central Ohio mayors and city managers on March 21 announced they have reached a consensus on the principles that would be encompassed by an economic development agreement.

Central Ohio mayors and city managers on March 21 announced they have reached a consensus on the principles that would be encompassed by an economic development agreement.

Columbus and area suburbs had signed a letter of intent in December to curtail what's referred to as "job poaching," or the practice of enticing companies to move jobs across municipal lines.

"If we're going to use incentives, we should be using them for new job creation here in the region," Grove City administrator Chuck Boso said.

Along with Grove City, participating municipalities now include Bexley, Columbus, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Groveport, Hilliard, New Albany, Obetz, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington and Worthington, according to Dan Williamson, spokesman for Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's office. Canal Winchester and Whitehall were invited, as well.

The group is working with three additional Franklin County jurisdictions to join the agreement and will invite additional jurisdictions in neighboring central Ohio counties to join in the future, Williamson said. The participating executives will ask their city councils to approve legislation ratifying the agreement by the end of May.

At a press conference at City Hall, Coleman said all but four involved local municipalities have agreed with the 18-month moratorium, which seeks to end the practice of offering tax incentives to lure companies away from one city to another. Essentially, the accord levels the playing field for all of central Ohio and keeps companies from pitting one city against the other to barter the best deal, Coleman said. Also, according to the agreement, when a company seeks a tax incentive from one municipality, it is required to communicate the offer to others, Coleman said.

"This is a binding agreement, if council approves it," Boso said.

No specific penalty for breaching the contract is outlined in the draft, Boso said.

"That's why we have court systems."

"We won't use incentives to try to lure (businesses) from one city to the other," Boso said.

Still, incentives exist that don't require council approval, he said. Community reinvestment areas are one such example.

Coleman said he felt the cooperation would only strengthen central Ohio, instead of diluting the work pool by spreading it out to the highest bidders. It would not affect tax incentives being offered to companies looking to stay in their respective cities, he said.

The four holdouts are Westerville, Dublin, Canal Winchester and Whitehall. Coleman said Dublin and Westerville were working in good faith but indicated the other two were not on board.