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Forward Cities Reaches into Cleveland Neighborhoods

Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor

Green Corps - Cleveland Botanical Garden

Cleveland is off to a robust start on its Forward Cities Initiative. To set the stage for the work, IBM sent two consultants to Cleveland to assist with the work of the Inclusive Innovation Council. The consultants spent four weeks assessing the current state, identifying gaps, sharing best practices, and developing recommendations for the corridors selected by the Cleveland Council.  The consultants used several methods in their work:
  • Conducting interviews with 22 people, including many council members
  • Using two kinds of neighborhood level data for the neighborhoods surrounding the selected corridors.  (Data was prepared by the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University.)
  • Socio economic characteristics of the neighborhoods residents
  • Economic base data on the businesses located in these neighborhoods
  • Conducting secondary research to identify best practices
  • Reviewing their primary insights and recommendations with selected people in Cleveland 
The IBM consultants prepared a report synthesizing data for each corridor and identified existing resources and assets, key opportunities, and challenges. They identified general gaps using a five-component framework that includes economic base; talent pipeline; entrepreneurship; innovation and ideas; and location, infrastructure, funding, and resources. Following a description of best practices, the consultants provided a list of recommendations with some focus for each corridor.  
As with any consultants that are parachuted in and out of a local economy without prior knowledge of its local history and ongoing initiatives, the contribution of the IBM team is threefold:
  1. It provides a fresh look at our city.  Although many of the findings are known to the council members, the packaging of the findings and insights is useful for the work of the council;
  2. IBM was able to assemble and synthesize ideas from their interviews with individual council members into their report;
  3. The menu of recommendations allows each corridor subgroup to choose priorities and actions that it feels are relevant and useful.
Cleveland Focuses on Corridors

The Cleveland Council has selected three core city neighborhoods where it will focus its energy: 
  1. The West 25th Street Corridor is home to influential economic drivers including the MetroHealth System as well as regional attractions including the West Side Market and Metroparks Zoo, several of which are planning expansions and capital improvements projects in the near future. The primary goal of the W. 25th Street Corridor Initiative is to build on the area’s existing assets to catalyze the revitalization of the corridor and its adjacent neighborhoods. In part, this will be accomplished by new investments in “bricks and mortar” along the corridor, but, most importantly, the initiative is designed to build community wealth and enable local residents to better support their families. One of those assets is the La Villa Hispana (Hispanic Village), located at the intersection of W 25th St. and Clark Ave. La Villa, home to the largest concentration of Latinos in Ohio, is positioning itself to be the cultural, social, and economic center of the Latino community in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. The La Villa initiative is well aligned to not only the goals of the West 25th Street Corridor Initiative, but also to the Forward Cities’ goal of connecting minority entrepreneurs with economic development efforts within their community. Forward Cities will play an instrumental role in ensuring that the entrepreneurs of La Villa Hispana get access to, and are prepared for, the economic development and wealth building efforts that are currently underway in, or are being planned for, the West 25th Street Corridor.  
  2. The Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor ("HTC") is a collaborative effort to grow and attract biomedical, healthcare and technology companies to Cleveland to take advantage of close proximity to four world-class healthcare institutions including the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, six business incubators, four academic centers, and more than 130 high-tech and health-tech companies engaged in the business of innovation. The HTC is a 1,600 acre area spanning the heart of Cleveland's east side, connecting Cleveland's vibrant Downtown to its cultural hub of University Circle. Because of the immense health, technology, and educational capital that Cleveland's hospitals and universities provide, the HTC has taken off as the place in the region to develop business synergies and partnerships in the health and technology sector. The opportunities for business attraction to Cleveland by partnering with the area's institutions are tremendous and have resulted in over 1,800 new jobs, 500,000 square feet of new or renovated office and lab space, and over $4 billion of investment since 2008. The HTC is about more than just innovation and business; it is about connecting that innovation and job growth to the neighborhoods surrounding the Corridor, many of which have high unemployment and foreclosure rates. The Forward Cities effort will enable the HTC to study how other cities have pursued inclusive innovation strategies.  
  3. The Forward Cities Cleveland Council picked Opportunity Corridor as one of its target areas because there is a powerful existing partnership that can be leveraged, as well as a clear need to create "catalytic environments that will inspire a new breed of entrepreneurial change-makers" in the communities of color that are a part of the project. Opportunity Corridor, one of the largest publicly funded projects currently underway in the state, is a new three-mile road being built through some of Cleveland's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The purpose of the road is not only to improve connectivity for major job centers in the vicinity, but also to support planned economic development within the five neighborhoods through which the road passes. The area within two miles of the Corridor includes 40% of Cleveland's poorest residents – average median income is $18,522 and unemployment among working age adults is over 50%. There is widespread agreement among stakeholders that the road project, scheduled for completion by 2020, will not reach its stated goals unless the economic well being and quality of life for Corridor neighborhood residents noticeably improves.  The broad-based inclusive Opportunity Corridor Partnership, with over 40 organizations and residents, has been assembled to oversee implementation of the Corridor's overarching goals, including  an aggressive job training and placement effort for residents, but the Partnership has not yet tackled how to to spur business entrepreneurship within these low income communities of color.    
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