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As technology continues to make the world a smaller place, people and businesses have never been so mobile.  Gone are the days when parents could expect their children to grow up and remain close to home, and gone too are the days when communities could expect their hometown stores and businesses to remain as fixtures for a lifetime.  For Cleveland to grow and prosper in the 21st century, Cleveland must find new ways to compete in attracting residents and businesses, not just in competition with its suburbs, but also in competition with other metropolitan areas across the nation and the world. 

How does Cleveland rank against other U.S. cities and metropolitan areas?  Frankly assessing Cleveland’s deficiencies and aggressively building on its strengths is a prerequisite for Cleveland’s renewed success.  It cannot be denied that Cleveland has fallen from the heights it had reached when it was the nation’s 5th largest city, with rapid job growth and a school system that was the envy of the region and the nation.  Cleveland, however, is a resilient city that has the ability to use the assets it built during its peak years to re-invent itself as a competitive place to live and do business for generations to come.


Cleveland´┐Żs institutions of higher learning have become increasingly important assets for economic development. [Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University]


Cleveland’s strengths range from the inherent advantage of its location on Lake Erie to the cultural and civic assets it developed when it was one of the nation’s very largest cities to the newly developing assets flowing from the innovations of its medical and educational institutions.  More specifically, Cleveland’s principal strengths relative to other U.S. cities and regions include the following.

Metropolitan Population.  Cleveland is the central city of the 16th largest metropolitan area in the nation, making Cleveland a major economic market.

Downtown Population.  The population of downtown Cleveland, although still relatively small, increased by 1/3 between 1990 and 2000, one of the largest gains recorded among major U.S. cities.

Medical Innovation.  Cleveland is home to the Cleveland Clinic, consistently ranked as the nation’s top cardiac care center, and University Hospitals, featuring one of the nation’s top-ranked pediatric hospitals.

Higher Education.  Cleveland is home to Case Western Reserve University, the only Ohio institution ranked among the nation’s top 50 universities, and Cleveland State University, featuring one of the nation’s top ten colleges of urban affairs.

Information Technology.  Cleveland has been recognized as a national leader in creating the “ultra-broadband” network needed to fuel information technology business development.

Water.  Lake Erie gives Cleveland a supply of fresh water – supporting both manufacturing and residential development – that is the envy of cities across the nation, particularly in regions where fresh water is a scarce and precious commodity.

Waterfronts.  The shorelines of Lake Erie and the banks of the Cuyahoga River and its tributaries give Cleveland unparalleled opportunities for waterfront recreation.

Location.  Cleveland is centrally located in the most populous region of the United States.  In 2004, Cleveland was ranked first in the Midwest and fourth in the nation as a location for “logistics management,” with Cleveland’s interstate highway access cited as its top-ranking asset.

Neighborhood Institutions.  Cleveland is a city known nationally for the quantity and quality of its neighborhood organizations, including community development corporations that combine grassroots connections with technical skills to create unique capabilities for revitalizing neighborhoods.

Philanthropic Support.  Cleveland benefits from unusually strong philanthropic support from the non-profit and corporate sectors, including the Cleveland Foundation, the nation’s oldest and second largest community foundation and the model for community foundations worldwide.


Five decades of population loss in Cleveland have left a legacy of abandoned houses, particularly in near east side and near west side neighborhoods.
The loss of over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in Cleveland has left Cleveland with the challenge of finding productive re-use for abandoned industrial buildings. [near East 55th and Central Avenue]


The Brookings Institution analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. Census for Cleveland and 22 other cities.  That analysis leaves no doubt that Cleveland faces serious challenges in creating a quality of life and an economic climate competitive with that found in its peer cities.  Among the most significant findings in the Brookings analysis are the following.

Population.  Cleveland is now the 33rd largest city in America (in 2000), after having peaked as the 5th largest city in America in 1920 and having held onto a position in America’s top ten most populous cities until 1970.

Income.  The median income of households in the City of Cleveland grew during the 1990s but ranks third lowest among the 100 largest cities in America.

Poverty.  The poverty rate in Cleveland declined in the 1990s but still ranked third highest among the 23 target cities in the 2000 U.S. Census.  Cleveland has the second-highest black and Hispanic poverty rates of the 23 target cities in the Brookings analysis.

Education.  The percentage of Cleveland adults holding bachelor’s degrees is fifth lowest among the 100 largest cities.  Cleveland has the fourth highest share of older teens who left high school without a diploma.

Employment.  At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census survey, Cleveland had the highest unemployment rate among the 23 target cities.

Immigration.  Cleveland had the lowest foreign-born population share among the 23 cities studied by the Brookings Institution.  n addition, only one in six Cleveland residents arrived within the last five years, giving Cleveland the sixth lowest share of “new arrivals” among the 23 target cities.

College Students.  Cleveland has the second smallest university student population among the 23 target cities.

Economically Dependent Population.  Seventy children and seniors are being supported by every 100 of Cleveland’s working-age adults – the second highest percentage of economically dependent population found among the 23 target cities.

Households and Families.  Compared to the other cities, Cleveland has a relatively small married-couple family population and a large single-parent family population.

Segregation.  Although the proportion of non-white population in Cleveland is roughly the same as the average in the 23 cities studied by the Brookings Institution, segregation of blacks from whites and of blacks from Hispanics, however, is far greater in Cleveland, with Cleveland ranking the 8th most segregated among the 23 cities.

Jobs in Manufacturing.  The percentage of Cleveland workers employed in manufacturing – a sector of the economy that has experienced significant job losses – is nearly double the average for the 23 target cities.

Job Location.  Only four of the 23 target cities have a smaller percentage of their working residents employed inside the city’s boundaries than is the case in Cleveland.  Over half of all commutes in the Cleveland metropolitan area begin and end in the suburbs.

Age of Housing Stock.  Half of Cleveland’s housing units were built before World War II – the second highest percentage among the 23 target cities.

NOTE:  The 23 cities included in the analysis by the Brookings Institution area as follows (in order of population): 
New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, Boston, Washington, Seattle, Denver, Portland, Cleveland, Kansas City, Atlanta, Oakland, Miami, Newark

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