Columbus City Council is on board with Mayor Michael Coleman's accord that would put a stop to job poaching across jurisdictional lines.

Columbus City Council is on board with Mayor Michael Coleman's accord that would put a stop to job poaching across jurisdictional lines.

Council expects to pass the legislation by the end of May, per the mayor's timeline, council spokesman John Ivanic said.

"I applaud the central Ohio mayors who are working together to promote the Columbus region as a destination for new jobs, rather than continuing to play the zero-sum incentive game to keep existing jobs," city council president Andrew J. Ginther said in a prepared statement. "The agreement is another step toward greater regional cooperation and is an example of the positive change we can make by partnering with other local governments. I look forward to considering the agreement when forwarded to council for approval."

Standing shoulder to shoulder with mayors and city managers from several central Ohio suburbs, Coleman announced a cooperative effort to end job poaching across jurisdictional boundaries.

At a press conference March 21 at City Hall, Coleman said all but four local municipalities - Westerville, Dublin, Canal Winchester and Whitehall - 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.

Coleman said Westerville and Dublin were negotiating in good faith but Whitehall and Canal Winchester were not on board. Since Coleman's announcement, however, Westerville has withdrawn. Westerville officials say the proposed moratorium is too restrictive.

Participating municipalities are Bexley, Columbus, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Groveport, Hilliard, New Albany, Obetz, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington and Worthington, according to Dan Williamson, spokesman for Coleman's office.

The participating executives will ask their councils to approve legislation ratifying the agreement by the end of May.

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, that municipality is required to communicate the offer to others, the mayor said.

Columbus has seen high-profile employers leave for nearby suburbs, such as Bob Evans Farms and Limited Stores, both of which moved their headquarters to New Albany after receiving tax incentives from the state and the city. Suburbs also have felt the sting of jobs lost to jurisdictions just outside their corporate limits.

Don Schonhardt, the mayor of Hilliard, said when he was newly elected in 2004, he saw 480 jobs leave when Nationwide's Gates McDonald moved to Columbus.

"I learned quickly that the rules of engagement encouraged the use of economic incentives to entice companies to move precious jobs and scarce tax revenue into one's own community," he said. "In fact, one community's loss was clearly another community's gain, since even with the offer of incentives, those bidding to gain the jobs and income were still further ahead than the community that was presently home to that company."

Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said that while he supported the agreement, he still has some concerns.

"I think that, in balance, this is a good agreement," he said. "While I'm not overly enthusiastic about taking a tool out of our economic tool chest, I'm also well aware of the negative impact these job poaching economic policies have had on the office markets and neighborhood fabric of districts throughout the state.

"My concern is that this agreement not get in the way of Bexley being able to offer strong incentives to encourage redevelopment, and I'm satisfied after having worked through these issues with this group that our interests are sufficiently protected."

He stressed that the agreement is for a fixed period of time and can be revisited.

"This is an 18-month deal, so we're all going to work in good faith towards cooperation, keep in touch, and continue to assess the positive and negative aspects of this agreement," he said. "The most important thing is that this agreement is encouraging cooperation and regionalism among central Ohio municipalities, and turning us into collaborators instead of competitors.

"Instead of focusing our energies on the counterproductive exercise of constantly stealing users from just outside of our borders, we need to be focusing on encouraging growth of business within our own districts and bringing in new business from outside of the region."

Coleman said he thought 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 municipalities, though, he said.