It's not a sports championship, but in some ways it's just as big. Last week a consortium of some of the wealthiest banks and foundations in the world announced that Cleveland would receive major support for innovative developments that will create hundreds of new jobs where they're needed most.
The Integration Initiative, by the New York-based Living Cities
philanthropic collaborative, will pump almost $15 million in grants, loans and targeted investments into Cleveland. One of five cities chosen, Cleveland impressed the evaluators with plans to leverage the buying power of institutions in and around University Circle -- which spend some $3 billion annually on goods and services -- into new businesses and jobs. And not just any businesses, but innovative, green operations that provide their workers with more than just paychecks.
Some of the funding will be used to start or relocate businesses in the growing Heath-Tech Corridor
between University Circle and Cleveland State. Other funds will expand the Evergreen Cooperatives
network of employee-owned businesses, all of which meet the institutions' procurement needs in new ways, and satisfy Living Cities' demand for "game-changing" new strategies.
Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, for example, uses far less water than competitors, allowing the institutions to reduce their carbon footprints. The laundry currently employs 28, and will expand to 50. Ohio Solar Cooperative employs 25 -- already exceeding expectations -- and will hire another 50 over the next three years. The Green City Growers hydroponic greenhouse will employ 45 when it opens on East 55th Street later this year.
All Evergreen businesses allow workers to build equity in the company and share in profits. "An 8-, 9- 10-dollar-an-hour job is not really enough to change someone's life," says Lillian Kuri of the Cleveland Foundation
, which coordinated the applications to Living Cities. "The ability for wealth creation is absolutely essential to changing neighborhoods."
Five more co-ops are in the pipeline, Kuri says. Two will launch "soon," the other three over the next one to two years.
Many of the foundations that make up Living Cities will be familiar to NPR listeners: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, to name a few. Member banks include Bank of America, Deutche Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase. Cleveland Foundation is an affiliate member.
Source: Cleveland Foundation
Writer: Frank W. Lewis