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Cincinnati is a livable city at the crossroads—literally and figuratively—of north and south, east and west, and Old World and New World. Called by some the “northernmost southern city,” it is a transportation and cultural gateway between the industrial North and rural South dating back to Underground Railroad days. The area’s largest industry and employer is Procter & Gamble, with a history that dates back to the city’s early stockyards when soap was made from animal byproducts. Other companies make soap and cosmetic products, while machine tools are another important industry. The area has experienced growth in financial services and in commercial and manufacturing facilities for overseas companies. There are some businesses supporting the auto industry, but the area’s economy has been less susceptible to disruptions from that industry, and is in good shape for a Midwestern city.
German and Italian immigrants brought a distinctly European architectural and cultural flair still evident in certain areas. There are few tourist attractions but the city is a patchwork of interesting historic neighborhoods, including the San Francisco-like Mount Adams, an area overlooking the Ohio River with nightlife, restaurants, and cultural amenities, the historic planned gaslight village of Glendale, and the posh Indian Hill. These are intermingled with numerous plain subdivisions and industrial areas. The city has increasing problems with urban sprawl with an unusually wide beltway and surrounding counties vying for new growth. Recently, growth of housing and commercial activities has exploded north of the I-275 beltway towards Mason, Kings Mills and Fairfield, creating traffic headaches and an exurban environment where residents of these areas commute to beltway commercial areas and seldom see the city. This isn’t all that unusual in American urban history, but it’s a big change for Cincinnati, and the downtown area, a long holdout against urban decay, is having problems. As if to confirm the trend, the metro area now includes the cities of Hamilton and Middletown to the north, mostly industrial centers but lying in the direction of growth. Northern Kentucky areas surrounding Covington are also growing rapidly thanks to new highway access, and areas near the Ohio River on the Kentucky side have become a center for entertainment. While sprawl and distances threaten, and the area’s hilly geography has always isolated some areas, most places in Cincinnati, including downtown, are easy to get to but commute times are growing. The most attractive suburbs lie north and east both inside and outside the beltway; names like Montgomery, Evendale, Blue Ash, Loveland, Kenwood, and yes, Mason should be on the radar of those looking at the area.
For a Midwestern city, Cincinnati has excellent and widely recognized cultural amenities, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. On the downside, racial tensions, inner city crime and landmark battles between conservative and progressive elements over arts and pornography have made national headlines. The city has a long major-league sports tradition that is more accessible and less expensive to attend—even when the teams are winning—than most cities. Beyond the city, Hamilton County has an outstanding park system. The city has a very attractive cost of living profile (COL index 86.8) for what is offered. We’re concerned about the downtown core; nonetheless, the city scores consistently well in all categories and the ranking has risen this time around.
The city itself is located in the narrow, relatively steep-sided valley of the Ohio River. The Mill Creek, Licking River, and Miami River valleys join the Ohio with broad tributary valleys giving way to hills and plateaus on both sides of the Ohio. Vegetation is mixed farmland and deciduous woods. The climate is continental with a wide range of temperatures from winter to summer. Often near the dividing line between cooler northern air and moist Gulf air, temperature and precipitation changes are frequent. Summers are warm and humid, in the high 80s and 90s but seldom reach 100[dg]F. Winters are moderately cold with periods of extensive cloudiness. Passing storms can create heavy spring and summer thunderstorms and winter snowfalls. Slow moving systems can cause long rainy periods during all seasons. Heavy snow is fairly uncommon and tends to melt within a few days, although snow can remain on the ground for several weeks during some winters. First freeze is late October, last is mid-April.