Since January of 2007, Ohio's unemployment rate has jumped from 5.3 percent, to roughly 11 percent. Northeast Ohio has felt the brunt of these losses, with income-tax collections down an average of 5 percent so far this year. In an effort to regenerate the region's moribund economy, hundreds of local leaders submitted project ideas to the EfficientGovNow competition to encourage governments to increase collaboration, save money and enhance the economic competitiveness of the region. The competition seeks to accelerate efficiency by providing as much as $300,000 total in funding to as many as three collaborative government projects from throughout Northeast Ohio. The Fund for Our Economic Future, the nonprofit running the competition, whittled 65 applications down to nine finalists that the public can vote on between now and July 31. The finalists include a plan to merge seven suburban Cuyahoga County fire departments, a joint health-service venture and a plan to share vehicle repairs. Participants can vote online, by calling 1-877-771-5206 or by mailing in a ballot.

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