A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the GCP offices on Thursday for the latest edition of the GCP Chairman’s Forum, which featured GCP Chairman Scott Chaikin and GCP CEO Joe Roman discussing the biggest issues impacting businesses today.
Chaikin, executive chairman of Cleveland integrated communications firm Dix & Eaton, and Roman touched on nine hot-button issues facing Northeast Ohio companies today, including:
Roman said the lion’s share of business expansion activities—some 80%—stem from businesses that are already located in Northeast Ohio. With that in mind, the GCP has doubled down on its efforts to reach out to companies in the region to help these organizations with their expansion efforts.
As called for in the Forward CLE strategic plan, the GCP has set a goal of reaching out to 1,000 companies per year and work with them directly on business expansion opportunities. The companies selected will be those viewed as being most ripe for business growth.
Roman noted that the GCP’s Cleveland Development Advisors affiliate is also instrumental to this business expansion work. Its real estate fund, through investments made in downtown and neighborhood projects and organizations, has had a catalytic effect on attracting further expansion opportunities in Northeast Ohio.
Connecting workforce to companies
Another workforce issue heavily impacting companies today is the challenge employers are having with sourcing skilled employees to fill jobs. Chaikin noted that Northeast Ohio’s workforce system is robust with much invested in it; however, what’s missing is a consolidated voice for the employer.
The creation of the Workforce Connect program, which brings together several organizations from across the region, aims to address this gap by aggregating together in one place Northeast Ohio’s network of workforce resources. While several industries will be targeted by Workforce Connect, the region’s manufacturing sector has been tabbed as the first industry to be addressed by Workforce Connect.
Getting employees to their employers is another challenge for the area’s employment system. There is a disconnect between where the jobs are and where the people are. Cleveland’s transit system does an excellent job of getting people downtown, but more could be done to connect a commuter who lives in Cleveland but works in Solon more efficiently to their place of employment. This is another area that the GCP will be studying and looking at additional effective solutions for Cleveland’s mass transit system. This effort will include connecting private sector leadership to Cleveland’s RTA system to better understand the challenges inherent in a public mass transit network. That work will get underway in the next month and if you’d like to be a part of it, please feel free to reach out to the GCP.
In addition to delivering workforce to companies, an effort is also underway to deliver innovation to Northeast Ohio’s economy. Still in its early stages, a consortium of groups are working together to build a stronger, accelerated innovation economy.
The questions being asked during this early stage include: What assets do we, as a regional economy, have at our disposal? What are the gaps? What are other economies across the country doing and what best practices can we learn from them? What should a go-forward innovation strategy look like in Northeast Ohio? The goal is to gather input from a broad swath of firms, including smaller innovators, disruptors and large companies.
From Cleveland to Blockland
Cleveland’s involvement in the Blockchain industry has been well publicized. As part of this ongoing effort, Cleveland has helped underwrite a $150,000 membership in Toronto’s Blockchain Institute. This investment allows all Cleveland companies with revenues of less than $1 billion to have free access to all of the research held at the Blockchain Institute. Contact the GCP if you’re interested in learning more about how to gain access to this research.
Diversity and inclusion
A study has found that increasing the amount of diversity and inclusion could add an additional $6 million to $12 million annually to Northeast Ohio’s economy. A goal of the Forward CLE plan is to identify how to realize these gains. While the calls being made on local companies to assist with the previously mentioned expansion efforts aids this inclusion effort, and growth in areas such as supplier spend from a diverse arrangement of sources is growing steadily, more could be done to accelerate it.
To that point, a reworked, inclusive, innovation strategy is underway to figure out ways for diversity to help grow the regional economy and figure out what form a new inclusion strategy might take.
Public policy agenda
To achieve the goals as set forth by the strategic plan, it’s critical for the GCP to be in sync with governmental partners. As such, the GCP is in the middle of engaging with member companies to ascertain which public policy initiatives are most important to them. One example of this has to do with Ohio’s Third Frontier program, which is nearing the end of its funding cycle. The work coming out of the GCP’s previously stated work on innovation could help shape a new, ongoing Third Frontier program.
The public policy agenda will be published at the beginning of 2019 and companies that would like to suggest input are encouraged to reach out to the GCP Advocacy Team.
Another of the studies being undertaken is related to looking at how Cuyahoga County compares, on a tax basis, to other communities. The goal is to ensure businesses in the area remain competitive. Roman added this does not mean the business community is opposed to future taxes, but rather to learn more about what these taxes might mean to the business community and how it might impact economic growth.
A quality air service foundation is one of the critical factors involved in building a region’s economic foundation. For Cleveland, the good news is that air service levels are back to the same levels seen when United Airlines had a hub in Cleveland, Roman said. Further, the flights to Iceland that have been added have demonstrated to other airlines that the Cleveland-to-Europe market is strong. An ongoing concern, however, is the customs process at the airport. An effort is underway to look at this process and uncover solutions to make it more efficient.
The GCP Chairman’s Forum is just one of the many events hosted by the GCP that connects the business community to resources and educational opportunities. Click here to learn about upcoming events that could benefit your business.