Upper Arlington and several other central Ohio municipalities have reached consensus on an agreement to reduce job poaching throughout the region.

Upper Arlington and several other central Ohio municipalities have reached consensus on an agreement to reduce job poaching throughout the region.

City leaders have been working on the agreement for nearly a year. The intent is to collectively encourage economic growth by offering incentives only to companies coming to central Ohio from other areas, and to share some of the growth if a company moves from one local community to another.

Joe Valentino, Upper Arlington's assistant city manager, said much progress has been made, but there is still work to do before the agreement could be implemented.

"We're close," he said. "We're still discussing some of the language. Right now we're trying to get a document we can all agree on to take to our governing bodies in April."

If ratified by each city council, the agreement would require that economic development incentives would not be offered to move existing jobs from another participating jurisdiction.

If a business were to consider moving from one participating community to another, the cities would be required to communicate directly with each other throughout the process, and incentives could only be offered for new jobs, according to Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's office.

"The most important part of the whole exercise is the agreement that we'll talk to each other," Valentino said. "If a company wants to move to Arlington from New Albany, for example, and they're looking for us to help them, instead of starting off with a confidentiality agreement, my first response is to pick up the phone and call New Albany. Then we can talk about why the company is leaving, if New Albany knows, if they're playing us against each other, etc."

The communities participating include Bexley, Columbus, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Groveport, Grove City, Hilliard, New Albany, Obetz, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington and Worthington. Columbus is also in talks with Whitehall and Canal Winchester to join the agreement.

Valentino said the communities with large-scale employers would see the most significant benefits from the agreement, but that it would be to Upper Arlington's advantage as well.

"In reality, Upper Arlington doesn't have a lot to win or lose," he said. "We don't have a lot of large businesses in our community, not the kind that would play one municipality against another. But the offices we do have, we have a much better opportunity to keep. At least now we'll know if they're talking to another city, and allows us to counteroffer."

Valentino said the document doesn't include any penalties for cities that violate the agreement. In response to a question from The Columbus Dispatch about enforcement, Coleman said: "We're not going to hire 'job poaching police.' These are honorable men and women. We're making rules for ourselves."

Valentino said the Upper Arlington City Council is expected to discuss the agreement during its April 2 conference session.