Columbus -- Mayors from Ohio's 30 largest cities have formed a group to advocate for the state's urban centers.

Members of the new Ohio Mayors Alliance hope to keep a close eye on the state budget, statewide elections and other state and federal issues of importance, with plans to formally adopt policy positions in the interest of cities, big and small.

"Ohio is unique in that it has a large number of urban centers," said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. "That is why it is so important for us to come together with one voice to address the challenges and opportunities facing Ohio's cities."

She added, "Our mission is to strengthen Ohio's cities and metropolitan regions through collaboration, communication, improved advocacy and stronger partnerships with state and federal policymakers."

Whaley and other members announced the alliance during a press conference in Columbus Nov. 18.

Counties, townships and municipalities already have formal groups in place to accomplish the same sort of work, but representatives of the alliance said the new effort provides a venue for the chief elected officials of Ohio's cities to make their voices better heard by lawmakers, the governor's office and other statewide and federal elected officials.

That's important, backers said, because Ohio's cities drive economic growth.

"In 2015, $850 million in new private investment [was] made in Ohio's biggest cities, representing 8,700 new jobs," said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. "I think more than anything else, we want this organization to raise the awareness of what cities are and what cities are not in Ohio. I think too often the rhetoric coming out of Columbus suggests that we're somehow welfare dependent states on the state. The fact is that we are net donors to the state in taxes, and most of the jobs are being created in cities, and we as cities give more to the state than we get in return."

Organizers say the group is bipartisan -- about a third of the members are Republicans.

The Nov. 18 press conference included mostly Democrats, including Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters and Youngstown Mayor John McNally.

The local government fund (and cuts made under Gov. John Kasich's administration), state support for brownfield development, tax policy and other issues will be considered by the alliance in advance of the 2018 statewide elections.

"You've got the mayors from the 30 largest cities in the state that are involved," McNally said. "Obviously, a lot of votes in those cities, a lot of serious discussion is taking place in those cities on a whole variety of issues. With a new president coming in with the state races coming up, I think it does provide and opportunity for local elected officials, the chief elected officials in all these communities, to really hammer home the message to the folks in Columbus."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.