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The challenges faced by Cleveland in the area of Economic Development are formidable and must be taken very seriously.

Over the past several decades, the city of Cleveland has lost a significant amount of its manufacturing jobs, as companies have moved to suburban areas and other parts of the nation and the world.  These jobs have not been fully replaced by equally high-paying jobs in growing sectors of the economy. 

Compounding the problem is the fact that the much of the city’s workforce has failed to keep pace with the education and skills required by companies in the technology and knowledge sectors of the economy.  Understanding the challenges facing Cleveland’s economy is a prerequisite to achieving renewed prosperity.

Among the challenges Cleveland faces in the area of economic development are:

  • Industrial properties whose buildings have outlived their former glory (such that they are not suitable to be adaptively re-used), can be land-banked and cleared for new industrial uses.  [Trinity Building in Detroit-Shoreway]


    Brownfield sites are being re-envisioned as new industrial parks while funding is pursued for the necessary cleanup. [Midland Steel site in Cudell]
    Industrial Sites with Access to Rail or Water but without Direct Access to Freeways
  • Obsolete Industrial Buildings:  Their multi-story construction, dilapidated condition and/or non-competitive location make them less attractive or marketable
  • Inadequate Supply of Workers with High-Tech Skills
  • Sizable Segment of the Population Lacking Basic Literacy and Math Skills
  • Barriers to Employment Due to Racial and Ethnic Prejudice
  • Lack of Assembled Sites of Sufficient Size for Major Development
  • Brownfield Sites Requiring Expensive Environmental Remediation Prior to Redevelopment
  • Competition from Regions with Lower Labor Costs and Lower Land Costs
  • Competition from Cities Perceived to Offer a Better Quality of Life, in the form of either standard residential environments or “new urbanist” environments
  • Absence of a Governmental Entity with a Mandate to Fund Public Development Projects of Regional Significance
  • Insufficient Venture Capital for Start-up Firms, particularly in high-tech sectors
  • Negative Perceptions of Public Schools and Neighborhood Safety

It is important to keep several other things in mind as economic development is pursued:

Competitiveness: If Cleveland is to be truly competitive in the period ahead, each of these challenges must be addressed, as well as the opportunities that present themselves at the present time or loom in the near future—for it is in terms of the city’s future that we must all be thinking. Cleveland’s remarkable past has bequeathed to us many of the powerful assets which, imaginatively used—and in some cases, adapted to new uses—will be the building blocks on which that future rises.  But the present moment is the only one in which we have the power to act, to forge new assets (such as a workforce armed with the new tools and technologies, and revitalized “neighborhoods of choice”) and to chart our course.
A Shared Vision:  That begins with the articulation of a vision and a set of goals and strategies developed in ongoing dialogue with residents, front-line agencies, business leaders and other stakeholders in the city and constituent neighborhoods of Cleveland.  Several cities in the newly formed European Economic Union have been accomplishing extraordinary things by putting together comprehensive, well-disseminated development plans based on shared values that set forth agreed-upon priorities, goals and strategies for achieving them.  It is essential that everyone, at every level, be working in the same direction, with the same goals and priorities in mind; otherwise, we are working at cross purposes, one group’s or individual’s activities potentially thwarting or even undermining the community’s ability to achieve its long-term goals.

Connecting Resources:  This is why the theme of connectivity is so key to this effort.  When choices made in each sector of urban development are made with the whole, and its larger goals and priorities, in mind, individual developments can support or reinforce efforts being made in other sectors—and maximize the chances of both to succeed over the long run.  A sustainable economy is one that takes into consideration all the things that could eventually render it unsustainable, and makes the most efficient use of its resources.  As this generation of Americans is learning painfully, waste—whether it consists of human or material resources—has way of piling up and eventually jamming the wheels of continued progress.  The most efficient machine, the men who built Cleveland the first time around would tell you, is one whose constituent parts are configured in such a way as to bring the most energy to bear on the challenge at hand.  So it is with cities.

In sum:  The City of Cleveland’s economic development policies, to have the best chance of success over the long run, must be:

  • Based on agreed-upon priorities that have emerged from dialogue with residents and stakeholders
  • Sustainable over time
  • Asset-driven
  • Designed to make the most efficient use of public and private resources
  • Comprehensive as a group—that is, a set of mutually reinforcing policies for every area of Cleveland’s multifaceted life that impacts or is impacted by economic development
  • Focused on specific, manageable goals
  • Well disseminated, understood and “bought-into” citywide, at every level of activity

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