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Not just a hobby: Cleveland company brings gaming to a classroom setting

Video games have long been derided as brain-melting time wasters, a label Chris Hatala has spent a good portion of his career refuting.
Hatala  is founder of GDL Entertainment, Ltd. (Games Done Legit), an event-planning company that integrates video games into wedding receptions, corporate teambuilding programs and other non-traditional spaces. Educational programming is GDL's latest stereotype-busting venture, particularly in reaching children through gaming and coding.
Over the last year, a GDL program at Horizon Education Centers has school-age kids harnessing games as both a learning tool and character builder. Children attending the center are divided into groups, then work together to solve problems relayed through math or shape recognition games. A puzzle game called DragonBox, for example, teaches kids simple concepts related to algebraic equations.
"They're doing algebra by the end of the session," says Hatala. "This is hard education."
Students are also learning social skills during gaming sessions, notes the life-long gamer. A team-based exercise has students playing a four-player version of Pac-Man where one kid controls the iconic yellow character. Three other participants play as the ghost enemies trying to stop Pac-Man from clearing the stage.
"Some of these kids face a steeper climb up the educational ladder," says Hatala. "We're getting them to interact positively with each other and follow directions. That's a big victory."
The gaming enrichment program will be expanded this summer to camps in Beachwood and Orange. Hatala has additional plans to bring educational gaming to libraries in Lakewood, Westlake and Nordonia.
For the older crowd, GDL is in early talks to merge its soft skill/ team-work initiatives with the higher-level curriculum of  We Can Code (IT), a coding boot camp targeted at getting women and minorities careers in IT fields. Hatala also envisions a future where virtual reality devices are used in classrooms to give digital tours of museums or places of historical significance. 
While the possibilities are limitless, Hatala is happy for now to reach young people in creative ways.
"It's a fantastic feeling to see kids go from 'I can't do this' to solving video game puzzles in minutes," he says. "I can't wait to see what the next few years bring." 

TechPint awards bring energy to Cleveland's startup scene

Almost 300 entrepreneurs, inventors and their supporters attended this year's TechPint Startup Awards, displaying an energy TechPint founder Paul McAvinchey says is significant for a community that must continue to build on its successes.
The awards event, held April 19 at the Beachland Ballroom, recognized Northeast Ohio companies in the categories of Most Innovative Startup, Most Beautiful Startup (best design), Best Emerging Startup and Best Growth Startup. This year's winners were Design Flux Technologies (Most Innovative), Harness Cycle (Most Beautiful), Complion (Best Growth) and Tech Elevator (Best Emerging).
The awards are community-driven, meaning peers voted on the nominees. This year's grand prize, awarded to the startup with the most overall votes in their category, was given to Complion, a Cleveland-based provider of clinical research software.
"We're giving kudos to people doing great work but not getting pats on the back," says McAvinchey. "It tells outsiders there's some really cool stuff happening here, and tells insiders to appreciate the hard work (these businesses) are doing."
Last week's event also featured a pair of speakers: Muhga Eltigani, founder and CEO of NaturAll Club, a made-to-order organic hair care line headquartered downtown; and entrepreneur Sam Gerace, founding CEO of a handful of successful area startups.
McAvinchey, a Cleveland transplant born in Ireland, stared TechPint in 2013 as a way for entrepreneurs to talk business in an informal setting. Since then, a total of 11 TechPint gatherings have been held at local drinking establishments. These events range from pop-up happenings to larger summits that offer a full day of networking, speakers and responsibly imbibed refreshments.
"From the start we knew this model could be successful," says McAvinchey. "It's for those who are serious about startups and want to meet like-minded people."
Among all the kibitzing and fun is an educational component, notes the TechPint founder.

"There's not an appreciation of how difficult it is to build a new company," McAvinchey says. "It's easy to start a company, and easier it for it to end."
Would-be innovators must build a team around an issue, rather than running with a flashy idea they believe will help them build a startup, says McAvinchey. In other words, creating a photo-sharing app is not likely to gain as much venture capital traction as would building software solutions for healthcare or manufacturing.
"There are so many opportunities out there in less sexy industries," says McAvinchey. "That's when it becomes about rallying around teams instead of ideas."
McAvinchey isn't trying to be a downer. In fact, by bringing together company founders, investors and technology pacesetters, TechPint events can illuminate the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, he says.
"We can take a look at the way we're doing things, and question how we might do those things better," McAvinchey says. "Innovation can come out of those questions." 

New CSU engineering building to emphasize high-tech teamwork

Enrollment at Cleveland State University's engineering school has doubled over the last five years, making the program's planned $46.2 million new building a necessity. The facility, which is scheduled to open in 2017, will offer spacious, high-tech work areas to accommodate the recent influx of students, school officials say.
Though the proposed 100,000 square-foot facility is about 10,000 square feet smaller than the engineering college's current location at Fenn Hallits open floor plan will better meet the demands of an academic environment where collaboration is key, says Anette Karlsson, dean of the Washkewicz College of Engineering at CSU.
Fenn Hall will remain, while the new building will be erected nearby along Chester Avenue just west of East 24th Street. Architects for the project include Harley Ellis Devereaux and Cleveland firm CBLH Design Cleveland-based Knight & Stolar is on board as the venture's civil engineer. 
Unlike the closed-off, column-filled classrooms at Fenn, the facility will have a 6,000-square-foot "makerspace" boasting a variety of machine-shop gear as well as 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools.
"It's one big area that will be divided into compartments," says Karlsson. "We're very excited about getting students a space that will give them the hands-on experience they need."
New engineering majors, meanwhile, will interact and create in a specially designated design area for freshman.
"It's more of a prototyping room where they can build light materials like plastics and paper," says Karlsson. "The idea is to teach the concept of design."
Other building plans include a hydraulics lab and classrooms. The larger design spaces will be separated by glass walls, which will let in natural light and further emphasize a sense of DIY ambiance. The new facility's interactive trappings were inspired by, among other projects, the Sears think[box] innovation center at Case Western Reserve University.
"We want the space to be open because were doing all these fun things," Karlsson says. "We want to show off what we're doing."
Ideally, students from all majors will use the facility to collaborate and build whatever their imaginations conjure.
"The first thing an employer asks about is a graduate's interpersonal and communication skills," says Karlsson. "Those (skills) are what students can learn by working in groups." 

Cleveland motorcycle entrepreneur rides into CIA to inspire, guide students

Though it's been a decade since Cleveland CycleWerks owner Scott Colosimo graduated from Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), he has stayed connected to the school as both a teacher and professor.
This spring, Colosimo has returned to his formative digs once more as sponsor of CIA's transportation design class, which "exposes students to the basic knowledge, skills and qualities that are important for a career in transportation design." The semester-long role is part-time, as the Parma native spends most days running his small-volume motorcycle manufacturing facility in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, where he builds custom bikes and restorations of British, Japanese and Italian motorcycles.
At CIA, Colosimo serves as a motivator and critic in helping students solve real-world transportation design questions. The role is more instructional than professorial, and is meant to reflect a designer/client relationship in the professional world.  
"My work is to push students further than they would be by the traditional OEM (original equipment manufacturer)," says Colosimo, who graduated from CIA in 2004. "Companies tend to pull students back in to make concepts more contemporary. I'm pushing them out and making sure they're looking well off into the future."
That conceptual outlook includes designing vehicles for racing along the surface of distant planetary bodies. Colosimo, who wrote the class curriculum with Professor Haishan Deng, oversees teams tackling the challenge of building vehicles for transportation on Mars.
"The vehicles take on a more unique design, proportion and function than cars of today," says Colosimo, 35. "This kind of problem-solving is key to developing a young designer's ability to step beyond the surface and become a competent, well-rounded designer."
Colosimo's partnership with CIA emerged as part of a long-standing CIA tradition of bringing in automotive officials to offer students professional-level feedback. The self-proclaimed "motorcycle geek" is proud to present his particular brand of two-wheeled insight to a creative, energetic classroom.
"These students are already thinking and sketching on a professional level, so I like to think of them as professionals," Colosimo says. "I'm there at a design director level to push them in the right direction when they get off track."
Though the entrepreneur has been in the motorcycle-building game since 2009, returning to school has illuminated new innovations unburdened by the limits of running a bottom-line manufacturing business.
"Students are working on unique propulsion, suspension and wheel solutions that I never would have thought of," says Colosimo. "They're so quick to adapt and think of ways to use that technology. It's amazing how natural it comes to them."

RTA on track for new East 34th Street rapid station, say officials

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is making progress on a new rapid station set for the site of the current station at 2830 E. 34th St. A community meeting to discuss the proposed improvements will take place tonight at 6 p.m. at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus Student Center.
The preliminary design for the $7.5 million project was shown to RTA's board of trustees on March 1, while an updated station design proposal was completed earlier this month. The new station, which like its current iteration on East 34th Street, will serve all three rapid lines, and be upgraded with better lighting and ADA-compliant features.
Attendees of tonight's get-together will see the same design concept presented to board members, says Mike Schipper, RTA assistant general manager of engineering.

"Our next step is to get feedback from the public," says Schipper.
The plan's design phase will wrap by December, when RTA also expects to begin the construction bidding process. Work is scheduled to start next spring and will take a year to complete, officials say.  
Plans for the new station include relocating the main entrance to the intersection of East 34th Street and Broadway Avenue, a space which will also offer a covered waiting area for riders, says Schipper. New LED lighting and a disabled-accessible ramp are among the project's other highlights. 

Though close to Tri-C's metro campus, the East 34th Street station currently does not get much use, Schipper says. However, thanks in part to the advocacy of Campus District stakeholders, RTA agreed to design and build a new facility instead of closing it altogether. 
The district's community development group has committed to work with RTA after the new station is finished to promote increased ridership. Proximity to Tri-C as well as special rates for students could give those figures an additional boost.
"We hope as we rebuild the station Tri-C will engage surrounding businesses and the Campus District as a whole," says Schipper, adding that a built-out rapid facility can also compliment a community that's undergone heavy development in recent years.
"This is our investment in the area," says Schipper. "We look forward to growing with the neighborhood."

Employers big and small seek IT talent at job fair

Developing Cleveland's workforce means finding and nurturing home-grown brainpower and fostering relationships. To that end, an upcoming tech-centric job fair will give local IT talent a chance to meet and impress Northeast Ohio employers seeking out new talent and staff.
The name of the free event, Linking IT Talent to Opportunity, says it all. Scheduled for April 20 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Independence Civic Center, 6363 Selig Blvd., the job fair is set to connect over 200 IT professionals, college students and recent graduates with two dozen companies needing software engineers, technical consultants, web developers and other technology-related employees. The job event is presented by Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) as part of TechWeek 2016OHTec’s annual initiative to promote and support the regional IT industry.
"This is our attempt to connect talent with opportunities, and make sure that talent stays here," says Vince Adamus, GCP's vice president of real estate and business development.

Though most participating businesses delve directly in software and network solutions, Sherwin-Williams and Medical Mutual will also be on hand, illuminating the regional need for tech talent across various industries, Adamus says.
About 67 percent of software jobs nationwide are with non-tech businesses, according to a 2011 Georgetown University workforce report on science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) employment in the U.S.
"Larger companies have an IT component they're hiring for," says Adamus.
GCP's networking effort, now in its fifth year, will offer attendees a range of entry- to mid-level positions. Job hunters are expected to dress professionally and bring their resumes for short meet-and-greets with hiring managers.
"Companies are not just gauging interest levels here; they're actually looking to hire," Adamus says.
As businesses expand in conjunction with a falling unemployment rate, would-be IT workers can fill a widening tech vacuum projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to have 1.4 million unfilled positions by 2020. The local numbers tell their own story. In 2014 alone, Cuyahoga County employers advertised more than 6,000 open software development jobs.
Ultimately, career fair proponents want to keep jobseekers in town, whether they're fresh from school or seasoned professionals seeking a new and exciting occupation.
"The IT segment is growing quickly," says Adamus. "We want to assist and facilitate that growth." 

Cavs paint the town in wine and gold to fuel excitement for NBA playoffs

The Cavs once again made it to the NBA Playoffs and this morning the schedule was announced for the first round against the Detroit Pistons.

To celebrate the accomplishment and to rally the city, the Cavaliers today began decorating the Cleveland landmarks – starting with Quicken Loans Arena – with banners and signs with boasting “#ALLIN216,” referring to the motto “All In to 16,” the number of wins needed to win the championship.
A full window wrap is being installed on the north and west sides of the building, including the front window. Banners are being placed on each arena bridge one on the bridge that connects The Q to Gateway east garage and one on the north bridge that connects to JACK Casino Cleveland’s Collection Auto Group Centre parking lot. Additional banners on the east and west side of the arena are also being flown.
After the signage is in place at the Q banners will then be hoisted all over town, many local businesses are also hanging banners with the motto.
“There’s so much signage going up in the next week or so,” says Tracy Mare, Cavs chief marketing officer. “Definitely fans will see it throughout the city.”
Cavs team representatives urge other businesses and individuals alike to also show their support. Last year, Marek says many residents painted their front lawns or put up their own signs to show support for the Cavs.
“We encourage all of Cleveland to recognize this as one more moment to show just how great Cleveland is, and to showcase our community,” Marek says. “Our playoff run provides an opportunity to look at the city with a different lens.”
Even if you don’t have a ticket to the home games or when the Cavs are on the road, there are plenty of ways to get in on the excitement. Marek says they will host watch parties and pre-game entertainment outside the Q, complete with food trucks, beer, live music and the Cav entertainment team for several hours before the games.
“There are so many more ways for people to get involved,” she says. “Even if you don’t have a ticket to the game, come on down. It’s an outdoor fun fest. Downtown Cleveland’s a great place to be.”
For a full Cavs playoff schedule and a rundown of activities, visit the Cavs Fan Guide

High-energy cycling studio rides into Beachwood

Joe Purton had almost two decades in the nonprofit realm when he decided to accelerate into a career as the owner of CycleBar in Beachwood.

Purton, the former vice president of Sisters of Charity Health System, recently opened the high-energy cycling studio in a 3,400-square-foot space at 3355 Richmond Road. Early returns are positive, with CycleBar classes drawing big numbers for what the new entrepreneur calls an intoxicating fusion of mind, body and music.

"It's a kind of multisensory journey," Purton says of an indoor cycling experience that melds thumping electronic music with videos and colorful lighting. "If gives you a feeling like you're in a club."

CycleBar's tiered theater holds 55 custom bikes along with two 80-inch televisions. Rides focus on upper body work and drills of varying speed, while personal data monitors allow participants to go at their own pace or compete with other riders. Instructors, called "CycleStars," lead the classes, which number about 30 a week, a figure Purton expects to increase in the coming months.

Though classes can be rigorous, the up-tempo affair is not meant to be intimidating for newcomers, says Purton, 48.

"That's the beauty of cycling," he says. "You can control  how much resistance you have on the flywheel and make it as difficult or easy as you want."

The Beachwood CycleBar, part of a company with 200 studios nationwide, represents Northeast Ohio's first indoor cycling franchise. Purton opened his studio in mid-March, fulfilling an entrepreneurial spirit for fitness that had been gestating for years.

Purton had been working at Sisters of Charity since 1994, organizing budgeting mechanisms and cost report filings across the faith-based healthcare system. The University Heights resident is also a former cycling instructor who taught classes in the late 1990's. While nonprofit work was lucrative, Purton recognized an opportunity at CycleBar he couldn't pass up.

"CycleBar allowed me to combine my passion for cycling with my accounting and finance background as well as a desire to run a business," he says.

Purton is currently working more hours per week than he ever has; a small price to pay for delivering something far beyond a standard cardio-fitness workout. Within the next two years, the burgeoning business owner hopes to open a studio downtown and another on the West Side.

"Everything I've been putting into this I'm going to benefit from," says Purton. "That (hard work) is what makes it more fun and rewarding."

Online yoga service brings mindfulness to the classroom

Zenworks Yoga has been delivering yoga and mindfulness classes to Cleveland schools for five years. The service has gotten so popular that founder Sonya Patel recently started a company to stream yoga activities into classrooms through short, web-based video exercises.

The new effort, called amaZEN U, launched in February as an online startup. Instead of sending instructors to classrooms, the subscription-based service offers minutes-long videos that guide students through various chair and standing yoga poses as well as mind-expanding breathing exercises.

The site is designed for ease of use, says Patel: Teachers can harness any combination of 88 activities to keep their class calm, focused, balanced and energized.

"Schools don't want a 30-minute class where kids have to take off their shoes," says Patel, a Solon resident. "Students just need a minute to breathe or move, so teachers can put this on in their classroom and the kids follow along."

Since the launch, the site has gained over 50 users including the Cleveland Municipal School District and Southeast Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools. The service includes videos suitable for preschoolers through high school students, with age appropriate poses and activities.

"For high school students, it's intended to get the energy moving," says Joie Scott, a Zenworks instructor and amaZEN U co-founder. "They're not doing handstands, but poses that will shift the energy in their bodies."

Though Patel has yet to witness a video-based class in action, she's getting positive feedback from teachers who say their charges are enjoying the "brain breaks" the movements provide.

"The language is not 'kiddish,' so it's going to be relevant for older students," Patel says. "We keep our videos on specific grade and maturity levels."

Users receive a free one-month trial upon registration. Cost is then $5 per month, or $50 per year. There is also a special discount for school subscriptions.

A portion of amaZEN U profits benefit Zenworks and the shared mission of bringing yoga to Cleveland's schools, says Patel. The limited availability of instructors makes the video service a necessity. The added bonus is that the activities are accessible anywhere at any time.

Patel expects to expand her offerings shortly, with new content including a user interface that lets young yogis and yoginis earn badges by meeting certain participation criteria. Ultimately, she wants to give students a fun, relaxing break from the daily grind.

 "We're reaching kids who normally wouldn't participate in these types of activities," Patel says. 

Transgender job fair aims to open office doors for an underserved population

Finding employment is a nerve-wracking, demoralizing process for most everyone, but getting a job is especially difficult for transgender people, who experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population.
Those transitioning their gender may be rejected by companies because of fear, bias or lack of education about transgender issues. An upcoming employment event hosted by The MetroHealth System and LGBT chamber group Plexus is designed to shed light on such concerns.
The Northeast Ohio Transgender Job Fair invites transgender jobseekers to meet  potential employers including Progressive InsuranceCleveland State University and General Electric. Attendees will also engage in workshops on resume writing and hear talks about workplace rights.
"Unemployment and underemployment hit this population in such a significant way," says Ted Rosati, chairperson of MetroHealth's Gay-Straight Alliance, an employee resource group. "We want the community to understand this critical issue."
During the April 23 event, Northeast Ohio employers will meet with an expected 75 candidates over the course of a day-long program. The itinerary includes advice on bolstering interview skills and what to wear for interviews and on the job. A keynote address will be delivered by Diane Dierker, a senior IT applications programmer at Progressive.
Participating companies already have policies in place to support the transgender community. However, the job fair can demonstrate to the wider region problems faced by a historically underserved population, notes Rosati.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty. In addition, 90 percent of transgender workers report experiencing harassment or mistreatment at the workplace.
"Even when they get work, it's difficult for them to find a friendly, supportive environment," says Rosati.
Getting in the office door presents challenges not faced by other applicants. For example, a simple background check will reveal the gender with which an interviewee was born, presenting a situation to which few hiring managers are accustomed.
"If people don't have experience interacting with the transgender community, there may be a built-in prejudice on what that person is like," Rosati says.
Restroom access can be another major hurdle to employment, says Lourdes Negrón-McDaniel, director of inclusion and diversity at MetroHealth.
"There's a thought from (managers) that if you let a transgender person in the bathroom, that will cause issues with other employees," Negrón-McDaniel says.
Employers are only hurting themselves by not dipping into this talented pool of people who are eager to work, job fair officials say. For now, MetroHealth and its partners are pleased to give Cleveland's transgender community a fighter's chance to secure employment.
"This is a population that deals with the same issues every day," says Marian Lowes, MetroHealth's manager of employee communications. "That's what we're trying to stop." 

Tri-C instructor wins award for drawing students into unheralded profession

Stenographic court reporters must have quick fingers, exceptional listening abilities and a microscopic attention to detail. Over the last 10 years, Kelly Moranz has been creating the programs and curriculum that teach these skills to potential stenographers attending Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C).
Moranz's decade of service was recognized  last month with an award from the the Journal of Court Reporting (JCR), a publication of The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The award highlighted the longtime program manager and Tri-C faculty member's work in leading students to lucrative jobs as court reporters, legal videographers and voice captioners.  
Moranz is also in charge of recruiting trainees for a profession that is not exactly at the top of a job seeker's most-wanted list. "People don't roll out of bed and say they'll be a court reporter," says the Old Brooklyn resident. "We have to get out there and make it known."
The JCR award is student-driven, making the honor especially meaningful. "I can't put into words what it means to be nominated by a student," Moranz  says. "Giving them the drive to succeed is just my job."

In court reporting, professionals use a stenotype machine or voice-writing technology to instantaneously capture words spoken at a legal proceeding or other event. Tri-C offers training on steno and specialized voice-capturing software that allows individuals to transfer speech into shorthand at a minimum of 225 words-per-minute. Students spend two to three hours daily sharpening both their speed and accuracy to keep pace with an average rate of speech that clocks in at 160 to 180 words-per-minute.
"It's a rare skill that's in demand," says Moranz of a vocation projected to have 5,500 new openings nationwide by 2018. "You've got to listen and write everything being said in a language we teach you. I like to say that court reporters are the original texters."
Moranz spearheads mentoring efforts as well as a 45-member captioning and court reporting club. She's also presented information about court reporting to Tri-C's Women in Transition program, which addresses women changing occupations or pursuing second careers.
With outreach being a key aspect of the job, Moranz has spoken at high schools to recruit those interested in the opportunity. Program grads may move into a court setting to record real-time transcriptions of a deposition or trial. Outside a courtroom, stenographers are employed by businesses, where their work is used for meetings and events. Closed-captioning for live television programs, speeches and religious services is another expanding area of the field.
Whatever job a graduate chooses, they should have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation and spelling, along with high concentration levels and a willingness to spend hours polishing their skill set, says Moranz. The end result can be a career with an initial salary of $45,000 to $55,000, with top stenographers earning up to six figures.
For her part, Moranz will be happy if her award sheds some light on an oft-underappreciated career path.
"I'm proud to have the opportunity to change peoples' lives with an exciting profession," she says. 

YWCA Greater Cleveland announces 2016 Women of Achievement awards

YWCA Greater Cleveland is celebrating its 40th anniversary of honoring women in Northeast Ohio through the Women of Achievement awards, in which eight local leaders will be named Women of Achievement and 46 others will be designated as Women of Professional Excellence.
The awards allow companies and groups throughout Northeast Ohio to recognize the contributions of exceptional women in their organizations. Women receiving it exemplify high professional standards and career and personal growth; make significant contributions to the effective, efficient operation of their organizations; display a willingness to support and mentor others; and make a positive impact on the community. Previously known as the Merit Award, more than 1,500 women have received this honor since 1977.
The 2016 "Women of Achievement Award" recipients include:
  • Micki Byrnes, president and general manager, WKYC
  • Lee Friedman, CEO, College Now Greater Cleveland
  • Kathryn “Kit” Jensen, COO, ideastream
  • Kym Sellers, founder, Kym Sellers Foundation; television and radio personality
  • Robyn Minter Smyers, partner-in-charge, Thompson Hine LLP – Cleveland Office
  • Maryrose Sylvester, president and CEO, Current Powered by GE
  • Nancy Tinsley, president of Parma Medical Center, University Hospitals
  • Sue Tyler, executive vice President and chief experience officer, Medical Mutual of Ohio
The 46 designated "Women of Professional Excellence" include representatives from a diverse array of local organizations such as Cuyahoga Community College, the Northeast Ohio Sewer District, Key Bank, American Greetings and Forest City.
The women will be recognized at the 40th YWCA Women of Achievement Luncheon and Women’s Leadership Conference on Monday, May 2 at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, which will also feature a host of conference workshops. More information about the event and registration details are available online.

All eyes on the future of city's digital economy at TechniCLE Speaking summit

An upcoming tech summit hosted by Jones Day is the continuation of a critical discussion about Northeast Ohio's economic future, event creators say.
Returning for a second consecutive year, TechniCLE Speaking will put tech entrepreneurs, educators, government officials, private investors and nonprofit thought leaders all in one room to discuss the major issues facing a burgeoning industry.
"It's important to be supportive of this growing community," says Jennifer Stapleton, an associate with Jones Day, a Cleveland law firm that works with tech companies, entrepreneurs and venture-backed companies. "This (event) lets us network and understand where there are resource gaps."
The half-day program, scheduled for April 14, offers short talks, moderated panels and public debates on subjects such as bolstering local technology education and meeting the lifestyle demands of digitally-savvy young professionals. Featured speakers include Phenom CEO Brian Verne, whose recent op-ed piece in Venture Beat decried Cleveland's risk-averse venture capital market.
Though Verne moved his company to San Francisco, providing a forum for Cleveland-based start-ups is a step in empowering smart young entrepreneurs who can lift the region to global relevance, says Stapleton.
"There can be a lack of knowledge about what the city can do to help these companies," she says. "Nothing but good can come from putting thought leaders and county officials together to generate new ideas on how to make (entrepreneurs) more successful."
TechniCLE Speaking is sponsored by Cleveland City Council, with Councilman Joe Cimperman acting a member of the planning committee. Last spring's summit drew about 170 attendees, a figure program officials expect to exceed this year.
Panels will focus on nurturing Cleveland's start-up nucleus over the long-term. For example, a discussion on growing the local talent pool will speak to aligning curriculum standards with tech industry best practices. Meanwhile, a talk featuring Blue Bridge Networks managing director Kevin Goodman and other entrepreneurs will dissect Cleveland's vision of an innovative city full of cutting-edge talent.
The area's business environment is not known for flexibility or an appetite for risk, an approach that must evolve if Cleveland wants to compete worldwide, says Stapleton. For now, however, spending a day with a group of enterprising young go-getters shows the city has their back.
"That's the goal of this summit," Stapleton says. "To explore opportunities and continue to help ourselves." 

TechniCLE speaking is free, but registration is required. To register or for more information, please email Grace Brennan.

Delivery service sprouts up, offers nutritious eats for downtowners

Many time-crunched office dwellers are at a loss when it comes to choosing lunch, says Sarah Melton, founder of Young Sprouts, a new made-to-order meal service that delivers farm-fresh food to downtown workers.

Research shows that typical corporate meal breaks aren't beneficial to overall worker productivity, especially when good nutrition is not on the menu, Melton says.

“Many people want to eat healthy, but not a lot of them have the time to make the meals the way they should be made," she says. "That’s where we come in.”

Young Sprouts' bicycle-delivered meals are an organic answer to less-than-healthy lunches that can be obstacles to better business, says Melton, who launched her company last November.
Melton’s venture follows a trend in corporate meal delivery, where services like LunchOwl and SowFood have work-better agendas underlying their menus. A 2011 study in Population Health Management states that poor eating habits are responsible for more than 60 percent of low productivity. In 2013, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) reported that a nutritious lunch could raise worker efficiency by as much as 25 percent.
Melton and her chef prepare “nutrient-dense,” box-ready meals. Try chicken sandwiches, nori rolls, chilis and soups, all freshly prepared at the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen. The menu ranges from $4 yogurt parfaits to $9 penne pasta dishes. A summer menu will focus more on cooler, salad-leaning items.

A counselor-turned-foodie, Melton initially conceived the idea of Young Sprouts while working with ex-cons, impoverished families and other at-risk individuals. She's since hired on some of the people she counseled as delivery riders.

Melton aimed to make Young Sprouts happen mostly to “prove that there could be a viable business like this," she says, "keeping food sourced mostly local, avoiding the big box stores - that it’s all possible.”

The “healthy” theme runs throughout the operation from the uniforms worn by delivery people to the compost-friendly boxes housing the meals. Melton aims to align Young Sprouts with strict environmental standards set by the nonprofit B Lab. In addition, the company donates a portion of sales to 1% for the Planet, which directs the funds to a sustainability-oriented nonprofit of Melton's choosing.
The food entrepreneur's overall goal is to get all of her goods sourced from Ohio farms within a 100-mile radius. Melton made a connection with Cleveland-based Green City Growers for that very purpose.
The all-green image is paying off, says Melton. Young Sprouts customers are smitten with the concept and its meals, especially the chili brisket.

“Instead of having some carb-laced lunch that gets catered to your meeting, they bring these really whole, actually good-for-you meals,” says Carl Baldesare, an avid Young Spouts user and head of Keep It Local, a community organization that promotes small businesses. “It’s amazing.” 

As marketing execs and financial reps continue to rave about the nascent company's meals and mission statement, Melton remains cognizant of the reason behind the good feedback.

“I don’t think it’s well-known how connected our physical health is to our mental health,” she says. “I want to use to this business to bring this to people’s attention. And, of course, to make healthy eating easy.”

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress announces finalists for Vibrant City Awards

Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) has announced 21 finalists for its 2016 Vibrant City Awards. Winners will be revealed on May 2 at the second annual Vibrant City Awards Lunch, hosted by CNP and presented by Key Bank and Community Blight Solutions.
“We are proud to convene community partners and stakeholders to celebrate city neighborhoods. These leading efforts in neighborhood revitalization are what help us all create a vibrant city,” says Joel Ratner, president and CEO of CNP. “The organizations and individuals being honored have displayed tremendous passion, dedication and collaboration. We’re excited to recognize them for their successful efforts in community development.”
CNP received more than 70 nominations for this year's awards.

Learn more about all 21 finalists and continue reading.
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