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Regional Economy : For Good

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endowment fund to boost midtown group's good works

The two square miles of real estate between downtown Cleveland and University Circle are bursting with development. A local nonprofit has established a fund to ensure that work continues to flourish.

On June 20, economic development corporation MidTown Cleveland, Inc. announced the creation of the MidTown Cleveland, Inc. Endowment Fund at the Cleveland Foundation. The fund, under the foundation's guidance, proposes to build a sustainable revenue source to secure continued activity in the burgeoning district. This will include promotion of the health-tech corridor, a three-mile expanse of hospitals, business incubators, educational institutions and high-tech companies situated within MidTown.

The growing tech corridor isn't the only project the fund will support, notes MidTown chairman John Melchiorre. The group plans to leave other "footprints" on the community as well, be they demolishing old buildings, planting flowers along Euclid Avenue or helping transform distressed properties into job-creating enterprises.

"The Cleveland Foundation has been a leading supporter of the revitalization of Midtown, so this is just the latest way our two organizations have joined forces for the betterment of that neighborhood," said Kaye Ridolfi, senior vice president of advancement at the Cleveland Foundation.

Founded by Cleveland businessman Mort Mandel and others some 30 years ago, MidTown Cleveland has helped develop the area into a business district home to 600 companies and 18,000 employees. Executive director Jim Haviland views MidTown as part of the city's renaissance, and believes the fund will sustain the region for decades to come.

"It helps us to continue the role we play" within the neighborhood, says Haviland.

 
SOURCES: John Melchiorre, Jim Haviland, Kaye Ridolfi
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

fifth third to roll mobile bank into underserved communities

Fifth Third Bank wants Northeast Ohioans who might be anxious about walking into a financial institution to get on the bus.

The bank has partnered with local community organizations to bring the Financial Empowerment Mobile, or eBus, to nine locations in the region from June 19 to June 29. The eBus is a rolling classroom providing credit counseling, financial literacy, home ownership assistance, and access to banking services directly to where people live, says Rob Soroka, retail executive at Fifth Third.

"People coming on the bus are struggling with their finances," says Soroka. "This is a place where they can get unbiased advice and direction to improve their financial life."

The mobile classroom is equipped with computer terminals for instructor-led or self-directed home ownership and credit counseling programs. Fifth Third community development officers, mortgage professionals and retail banking staff will be riding along to offer financial advice in a relaxed atmosphere.

Now in its ninth year, the theme of this year's program is realizing financial dreams, be it owning a house or starting a business, says Laura Passerallo, Fifth Third director of marketing. The eBus venture, which counts the Call & Post Foundation and The Word Church among its partners, will serve upwards of 1,600 people this summer.

Fifth Third will also hold large community events to introduce people to the eBus. A June 28 get-together at the Hispanic Business Center aims to provide a festive atmosphere for folks curious about what the 40-foot-long bank-on-wheels provides.

"People who need help may be intimated to come into a traditional financial center," says Soroka. "With the eBus, that intimidation goes away. That does some good for the community."

 
SOURCES: Rob Soroka, Laura Passerallo
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'father-daughter hackday' encourages girls to become makers of technology

If it's up to Rachel Wilkins Patel, fathers and daughters will create something cool together this Father's Day.

Patel is founder HER Ideas in Motion, Northeast Ohio’s first technology and media program for girls. On June 15, the nonprofit will host a Father-Daughter HackDay featuring hands-on activities and career role-modeling for girls ages 11-14 interested in STEM-focused studies. Participants will create their own projects under the tutelage of female technology professionals.

The workshop "is about fathers encouraging daughters to try new things and become makers of technology, not just users," says Patel, a developer at Progressive Insurance.

Being the only woman in the room is not uncommon in high-tech professions, something that HER Ideas in Motion aims to change.

"The number of women in programming is flat and even decreasing in some areas," Patel says. "We're trying to address social and industry issues."

Launched in 2011, the program has graduated 130 students. Interacting with successful women from Rosetta, LeanDog Software, NetApp and Keybank during the Father's Day program will only motivate teen girls to pursue their high-tech aspirations, believes the nonprofit founder.

Gender should not be an obstacle for creative types hoping to program their own video game or dissect the inner workings of a computer, Patel notes. Middle school is the perfect time to introduce girls to the ever-growing digital space.

"We want to reach them before they know what they're capable of," she says. "They should be comfortable taking technical classes later in their school careers."

 
SOURCE: Rachel Wilkins Patel
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

brain gain group, bar association link up for cleveland pep rally

The Brain Gain Cleveland Project (BGCP) has teamed up with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association to stage a lunchtime pep rally for the city they love.

The rally will be hosted by the legal organization and serve as its annual meeting, just with a far more diverse crowd than usual, says Debra Mayers Hollander, deputy director of scouting for BGCP.

Hollander is expecting 1,000 guests to make it to the floor of Quicken Loans Arena for the June 28 event. Among the more famous participants scheduled to appear are Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Senator Sherrod Brown. BGCP members the Cleveland Orchestra and Positively Cleveland will be among the institutions on hand. The event also will include live music, videos about Cleveland, and food from local eateries.

Rally attendees can fill out a registration form online or purchase tickets by calling the bar association at 216-696-3525. Those who miss the daytime event can make up for it that night with a BGCP music and networking get-together at The Tavern Company in Cleveland Heights.

"It's going to feel inspirational," Hollander says. "Everybody coming together in the heart of downtown Cleveland to support one another."

BGCP is a nonprofit advocacy group founded by bar association members to grow the city through the creativity and energy of its citizens. The grassroots effort is led by Jon Leiken, a Jones Day partner and bar association president-elect. BGCP's website launched in 2012 and has attracted about 350 “scouts," a term referring to its members.  

"We hope [the rally] encourages people to join us and become a scout," says Hollander.

 
SOURCE: Debra Mayers Hollander
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

volunteers needed for tall ship festival sailing into town this july

The Tall Ships are sailing back into the Cleveland harbor this summer, and are going to need some volunteers to stay afloat.

Okay, nobody will be hoisting the mizzenmast or lifting any bales, but there is a call for greeters, ticket takers, crowd control marshals, hospitality workers, docents, and more once the four-day event kicks off on July 3.

The Tall Ships Festival, returning to the lakefront for the first time since 2010,  is being organized and presented by the Rotary Club of Cleveland with support from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Some 500 enthusiastic volunteers are needed to ensure everything runs swimmingly, says Rotary Club member Edward Thomas.

"We can use people to carry water, help people get off and on boats, and drive ship crew members to the grocery store," Thomas says. "Virtually anything that's needed to be done, a volunteer is needed to help out."

Volunteers need to be 18-or-over and available for a minimum of two shifts between July 3 and 8, note festival organizers. Applicants can sign up on the festival website.

The family-friendly happening will bring a dozen replica historic vessels, showcasing the Great Lakes' great past and allowing visitors to experience the heritage these historic ships symbolize, says Thomas. Officials expect about 100,000 visitors for the event.

"It's always good to be around something where there's lots of energy and excitment," Thomas says. "It will be a great experience for those willing to help us bring life to the lakefront."

 
SOURCE: Edward Thomas
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth 

black achievement the topic of foundation center's first 'rising tide' event

When every sector of a populace thrives, so does the community as a whole. The local chapter of a national philanthropic organization plans to shine a light on this and other issues during a series of programs in 2013.

Philanthropic support of black male achievement will be the subject of the Foundation Center's first Rising Tide program on May 22, says director Cindy Bailie. Nearly every major indicator of economic, social and physical well-being shows that black men and boys in the U.S. do not have access to the structural foundation and opportunities needed to succeed. However, a flood of philanthropic support and social innovation is addressing these challenges head on.

"There's work happening locally aimed at black men of all ages," says Bailie. "This is our chance to change the situation."

The program will consist of three speakers and a panel discussion. The center has also launched a website to spotlight the topic. Connecting people to those working on the problem is only part of the plan.

"We want people to leave inspired," says Bailie. "This is a call to action."

The New York-headquartered Foundation Center is a source of information on U.S. grantmakers. Locally, the organization acts as a library/learning center for those seeking knowledge about the nonprofit sector.

The black achievement program is the first of a planned series of quarterly events "showcasing new ways of solving old problems," says Bailie. Future events could touch on such topics as the impact of arts and culture on the community.

"These [programs] aren't just conversation-starters," Bailie says. "What will you do to keep the conversation going?"

 
SOURCE: Cindy Bailie
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization's eclectic mix of programs 'scoring' points with cleveland students

Soccer, creative writing and volunteerism might seem like an odd mix, just don't tell that to the students helped by America SCORES Cleveland, an organization that has been providing unique after-school programming for almost 10 years.

The local chapter of America SCORES, which launched in 2004, serves more than 500 youths in 10 Cleveland public schools. The program is designed to create "poet-athletes" through an innovative triple threat of soccer, poetry and service learning, says executive director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.
 
The tri-curricular approach creates well-rounded students, maintains Pence-Meyenberg. Soccer was chosen for its accessibility and minimal equipment needs. Writing and performing poetry, meanwhile, gives youths an emotional outlet and promotes creative thinking. Finally, volunteerism instills in children a sense of compassion, social responsibility and personal worth.

"We want urban youth to lead healthy lives and be involved in their community," says Pence-Meyenberg.

Public school students in grades three through eight can stay engaged through sports and creative writing, notes the chapter head. Participants also choose their own neighborhood-based service projects, like working at a community garden or raising money for Haitian earthquake victims.

On June 22, Cleveland's student-poets will collaborate with Cleveland artists during an event at 78th Street Studios. The Inspired Art Project will showcase the poetry of local youths through original artwork from Cleveland creatives, with sales of these items going to America SCORES. The program, along with the other activities America SCORES offers, can have a positive impact on the culture of an entire school district.

"Our kids and becoming healthier and more engaged," Pence-Meyenberg says.

 
SOURCE: Debi Pence-Meyenberg
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

united way calls for volunteers to help with cleveland schools transformation

United Way of Greater Cleveland has been a steady supporter of Cleveland's schools for years. The charity organization is now looking for some outside assistance as the city works to change the fortunes of the struggling district.

United Way is inviting volunteers to invest their time and talent in conjunction with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's initiative to transform its underachieving schools. The CMSD volunteer opportunities have not yet been defined, but United Way president and CEO Bill Kitson knows help will be needed once the new school program launches in the fall.

"We're taking names and we'll get back in touch with people this summer," says Kitson. “We need our entire community to wrap around our kids, their families and their schools.” 

Enrichment programs, mentoring and after-school enrichment opportunities are just a few of the changes afoot for the 13 Cleveland schools impacted by the strategy, the first part of The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools.

Interested volunteers can sign up online or call United Way 2-1-1. The organization will contact potential participants when opportunities fitting their skills and interests arise. Helpers might be needed to walk to children to school, or to assist with neighborhood cleanups around school facilities.

"There are so many ways to utilize the community," Kitson says.

United Way officials would like to get a couple of hundred volunteers engaged as soon as the schools open. The group views education as a key to the city's success, and publically supported CMSD's 15-mill levy that passed last November.

"Getting a neighborhood involved in its schools goes beyond education," says Kitson.

 
SOURCE: Bill Kitson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization asks parents to pledge allegiance to their children's education

 About 2,000 days pass from when a child is born to the moment he or she enters kindergarten. Officials from The Centers for Families & Children believe every one of those days is critical in preparing a child's educational future, and have created a new campaign to back up that point.

The 2,000 Day Pledge asks parents already involved with The Centers to keep their kids in an early learning program for as many days as possible within the first 2,000 days of that child's life. It also requests parents choose a high-performing elementary school compatible with their young student's learning needs, with graduation from high school being the long-term goal.

Those 2,000 days are a window to prepare children for success in school and life, says Sharon Sobol Jordan, president and CEO of The Centers. "We have this same amount of time with our parents to help them get ready to be good advocates for their children," she says.

Kids who enter kindergarten lacking a solid educational foundation are at risk of falling behind peers who have those advantages, says Amy Martin, the organization's vice president of marketing and communications.

"The gap widens in elementary school, and by high school you start to see the drop-out rate rise," says Martin.

While the new campaign is mostly aimed at existing clients, The Centers' officials hope word about the pledge spreads to expectant mothers and other members of the community.  In addition, The Centers doesn't just ask parents to pledge, but considers the campaign a shared commitment between itself and participants.

"We want to help parents fight for the education of their children," Martin says. "We're partners with them every step of the way."
 
SOURCE: Sharon Sobol Jordan, Amy Martin
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

foundation grant sends message, gives financial boost to 2014 gay games

The 2014 Gay Games was a great "get" for the Cleveland-Akron area, as the region was selected over larger competing metropolises like Boston and Washington, D.C. The Cleveland Foundation has reinforced the notion of the games' importance with some hefty financial support.

The foundation recently awarded the games a $250,000 grant, forming a partnership that makes the organization the games' top sponsor. The event is now named the 2014 Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation, representing the first presenting sponsorship in the games’ 31-year history.

"We saw the games as an important event coming to Cleveland," says foundation executive vice president Bob Eckardt. "This [grant] sends a message about the area as an inclusive community."

As a result of the partnership, a new LGBT fund also is being established at the foundation. Launching at the end of the games next August, the fund will assist LGBT organizations and serve as a donation source for people interested in LGBT causes.

The forthcoming sports and cultural festival, aimed at promoting respect and understanding of the gay community through athletics, is expected to draw about 30,000 people to the region, including 11,000 athletes.

Foundation leaders maintain that the games' social impact on Northeast Ohio is just as important as its potential economic benefits. "Our hope is it will leave a legacy of a region more sensitive and welcoming to the LGBT community," Eckardt says.

That relationship is already growing, says the foundation VP, as games' leaders are now cultivating relationships with local businesses intent on strengthening Greater Cleveland's support of LGBT society.

"This is a great opportunity for the entire community to work together," says Eckardt.

 
SOURCE: Bob Eckardt
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

greening of cleveland's building sector gets help from grant

A nonprofit seeking to create environmentally sound, high-performance building districts in Cleveland recently got a hand with its city-greening mission.

The Cleveland 2030 District, a group that would like downtown edifices to consume less energy and water and produce less greenhouse gases, received a $175,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation, funding that will go in part to the salary of the organization's first executive director as well as additional staff support.

The new executive director is Jon Reidy, who has been with the group of architects and engineers since 2011. The bulk of the grant will allow the group to intensify efforts put forth by the national Architecture 2030 project, which aims to reduce climate-changing emissions from the global building sector.

"We're creating a demand downtown for energy efficient projects in the interest of business development," says Reidy, a 15-year veteran of the architecture industry.

The Cleveland group is an offshoot of Mayor Frank Jackson’s Sustainability 2019 project, an effort to transform the city’s economy by "building a green city on a blue lake."

Cleveland 2030 works with owners, managers and developers within the downtown district to expand the number of buildings participating in the project. Five property owners controlling approximately 3.5 million square feet of Cleveland's brick and mortar are signed up so far.

Reidy hopes more area building owners share the project's vision of a future Cleveland where energy efficiency and a cleaner environment are the norm.

"Sustainability can be the foundation for rebuilding our economy," he says.

 
SOURCE: Jon Reidy
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

clevelander's documentary offers real-life tales of rust belt revitalization

For some, the term "Rust Belt" conjures unpleasant images of empty factories, foreclosed homes and unhappy people wandering cracked streets, wondering when times will get better. But what's really happening in some of the Midwest's major cities, and how different is it from the way these cities are often depicted?

Jack Storey thinks he has an answer. The impassioned city advocate has created a documentary chronicling what he believes is a more accurate representation of resilient cities working on reinventing themselves.

"Red, White & Blueprints" is an examination of the strides being taken by Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Youngstown, highlighting the most innovative initiatives, individuals and ideas coming out of these cities.

"It's a positive movie about the Rust Belt, which nobody is really doing," says Storey, 30. "We're showcasing another side of these cities."

Storey, founder of the grassroots community development organization Saving Cities, spent two weeks in the summer of 2011 traveling and taking footage with friend Rick Stockburger. He met steelworkers and autoworkers, entrepreneurs and politicians, all with their own ideas on how to boost their respective homes. Locally, he interviewed figures including Gina Prodan from Unmiserable Cleveland and Katie O'Keefe, better known as "the pink-haired tattoo girl."

Storey, of Collinwood, learned just how tough Midwesterners are. More surprising was how deeply the people he met cared about their city's livelihood. "It was the most educational experience of my life," he says.

"Red, White & Blueprints" debuted this week at Cleveland International Film Festival. (Screens tonight at 6:30 p.m. on stand-by.) Storey hopes the film gives viewers a truer vision of what it means to live in Cleveland and other less heralded parts of the country.
 
 
SOURCE: Jack Storey
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

retro gaming fun the aim of coin-op cleveland crowdfunding campaign

Memories of flashing lights, digitized explosions, rock music and quarters being ritually plunked into plastic coin slots have a happy place in the minds of many folks of a certain generation. Two Clevelanders want to bring those sights and sounds back to the city this summer in the form of a pop-up arcade.

Coin-Op Cleveland is a Kickstarter project helmed by John Stanchina and Mike Scur. While arcade gaming collapsed in the 1990s with the ascension of home consoles, the duo believe putting an old-school retro arcade in a West Side neighborhood will attract people seeking to mash some buttons with a few nimble-fingered friends.

Put simply, the pair wants to create a fun, unique place to hang out away from the "barcades" that have a few arcade cabinets alongside the plentiful booze.

"The vibe is being a kid again," says Stanchina, an Ohio City resident. "It's about interacting in a different kind of space."

The $35,000 Kickstarter campaign, which ends at midnight on May 13, will fund the arcade's installation and 30-day operation in Ohio City, Tremont or Gordon Square. A large part of the cost will go toward purchase and maintenance of the arcade machines themselves.

The plan is to run the arcade for a month, but if it receives additional funding, a permanent installation is possible, says Scur of Parma Heights.

The two friends envision a community space that becomes part of the downtown Cleveland nightlife scene, just with neon lights, popcorn and rows of game cabinets instead of a bar.

"Arcades are all about the social element," says Scur. "They've always been a place to play games with people on the same wavelength."

 
SOURCES: John Stanchina, Mike Scur
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

clc 'boot camp' to take hard look at cleveland poverty

Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC) director of engagement Earl Pike can't turn around in downtown Cleveland without seeing a crane or some other piece of construction equipment erecting a new building.

There's certainly good work happening locally, but there's also one critical question that Pike wants answered: With all the development in our region, who is being left behind, and what can we do to ensure that "all boats rise"?

This complex query will be explored through "Making Ends Meet," a series of intensive one-day "civic engagement boot camps" hosted by CLC and Ideastream. The programs, which run from April 22 to May 29, are not "easy" experiences, where participants sit in a classroom and listen to speakers, says Pike.

Instead, the boot camps live up to their name, putting attendees in small groups where they will intimately address key aspects of poverty and economic vulnerability in the region. For example, a planned housing-related boot camp includes a visit to eviction court and a trip to a housing project that supports disabled, homeless individuals.

"There is a hunger out there for an experience that is deeper and tougher than people are used to," Pike says. "We can't just be sitting in a room."

A more profound level of engagement with Cleveland's problems is more likely to create a problem-solving "action group" for further activity, the CLC director maintains. In addition, Ideastream will gather video content from each of the program days to create a documentary on Cleveland's economic vulnerability.

"Cleveland's poverty conversation has taken a back seat," says Pike. "We want to rekindle that conversation."

 
SOURCE: Earl Pike
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

future perfect: program to look at the exciting possibilities for university circle

University Circle already holds claim as Cleveland's premier medical, cultural and educational district. But what does the future hold for the rich, square-mile enclave and the neighborhoods around it?

"Building the Circle 2035: Height, Density and Social Equity" will attempt to answer that question during a free panel discussion on April 10 in the Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium. The program is part of the Circle Neighbors lecture series sponsored by the art museum's Womens Council in collaboration with the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Women's Committee of The Cleveland Orchestra, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.

University Circle is an ever-active neighborhood of "arts, ed and med," says Circle Neighbors co-chair Sabrina Inkley. With development on the rise, the district just four miles east of downtown Cleveland has become an anchor for a city that certainly needs one.

"As Clevelanders we have this inferiority complex," says Inkley. "University Circle is the one of the most unique one-square-mile areas in the nation."

The panel talk, moderated by Plain Dealer architecture critic Steven Litt, will peer two decades into the future to imagine what University Circle might look like, and how the district's rising wealth could benefit struggling surrounding neighborhoods. Panelists will include Chris Ronayne of UCI Inc, developer Ari Maron of MRN Ltd. and India Pierce Lee of the Cleveland Foundation.

Inkley doesn't have all the answers, but she knows University Circle is an enormous linchpin for Cleveland's economic future. New rental apartments and various institutions constructing new facilities are just two examples of the growth taking place.

"It's just very exciting," Inkley says. "There is something for everyone here."

 
SOURCE: Sabrina Inkley
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
60 Regional Economy Articles | Page: | Show All
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