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Cleveland Connects: What we can learn from Louisville and Pittsburgh to improve our economy

October 10, 2018

Cleveland Connects: What we can learn from Louisville and Pittsburgh to improve our economy

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Attorney Jon Pinney’s civic-intervention speech this summer at the City Club of Cleveland offered a blunt assessment of the local economy. 

It’s not good. It lags behind Columbus, Cincinnati and other peer cities in important areas, including the ability to attract employers and produce skilled workers.  

Pinney also called out several local leaders and implored them to lead. But how? And to what end? Those are questions that many who share Pinney’s frustrations want answered, and now. 

To help advance the conversation, the next installment of Cleveland Connects will be about lessons Cleveland can learn from a couple of peer cities – Louisville and Pittsburgh - that successfully promoted economic development and improved quality of life. 

Cleveland Connects is sponsored by PNC Bank and produced by cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer in partnership with ideastream, the public broadcasting entity that includes WVIZ/PBS Channel 25, WCPN FM/90.3 and WCLV FM/104.9.  

We kick off this installment, Cleveland Connects: We’re Behind. Lessons from Peer Cities, with a public forum featuring people with a working knowledge of what Louisville and Pittsburgh did and didn’t do to improve their fortunes. 

The free forum is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 at the Idea Center, 1375 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Click here to register.

Representing Louisville will be Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, the chief of the city’s economic development arm Louisville Forward. Speaking on behalf of Pittsburgh will be Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. 

Joseph Frolik, ideastream’s managing producer of community affairs, will serve as moderator. 

In the days following the forum, cleveland.com will report in detail what it found during recent visits to Louisville and Pittsburgh. 

While the two cities still have problems, economic development experts point to steps each city has taken to give their economies a stronger foundation from which to grow. 

 In Louisville, a major airport expansion and a consolidation of local governments have been critical. Pittsburgh has thrived in part on its prescient focus years ago on computer science. 

Cleveland also has made progress on some fronts. Downtown pulses now that some 16,000 people call it home. And several new hotels and retail establishments have popped up in and around the city center. But big questions remain. 

How can we attract more high-paying jobs and keep more of our young people in town? How do we finance much needed and costly improvements to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport? 

Should the land dedicated to Burke Lakefront Airport be converted into something more productive and useful?  Can can we get public officials, business leaders, non-profit heads, economic development promoters and university researchers to work in collaboration toward quantifiable, community-minded goals? Should there be a greater emphasis on regionalism? It would be an audacious move, but should Cleveland and Cuyahoga County merge? 

These are not easy questions to answer. Come to the public forum or watch it live streamed on the Internet to find out what lessons Cleveland might learn from others who have successfully navigated some of the same issues. 

The Cleveland Connect series seeks to advance solutions on topics important to the region. Past installments have examined early childhood development, criminal justice reform and the Say Yes to Education program, among others.

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