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Policies & Strategies
Link: Economic Development Printabe Version (PDF)


The goal of these efforts is to increase economic prosperity through job creation and improved access to jobs and business ownership by all segments of the Cleveland community.  The Connecting Cleveland 2020 Plan therefore puts forth a comprehensive set of economic development policies, each focused on a specific goal, and strategies through which we might take immediate steps toward their implementation/achievement, in the following areas of the city’s life:

  1. Health Care Commerce.  Capitalize on the presence of world-renowned medical and educational institutions to grow businesses involved in health care procedures and products, while attracting patients and visitors from outside the region.

    1. Ensure “places” for health industry-related manufacturing, and patient-centered commerce around the economic hub of greater University Circle, and elsewhere. 
    2. Link new construction opportunities to Cleveland small business and residents, local purchasing and institution supply chain “mining” and recruitment to Cleveland.  Prior to construction completion, plan for linking citizens, particularly within proximity to projects, to training and prepatory activities toward permanent jobs in the facility being built.
    3. Leverage to the City’s benefit the business expansion, recruitment and product commercialization efforts of groups such as Greater Cleveland Partnership, BioEnterprise, WIRE-Net, etc.
    4. Develop a health industries training initiative to improve the fit between this industry and the skills of Clevelanders.
  1. Advanced Manufacturing.  Promote product design, product innovation and productivity process improvements to help industry shift from traditional production to higher-value and specialized output in sectors where Cleveland can create competitive advantages.

    1. Ensure “places” for manufacturing
    2. Use the City Industrial/Commercial Land Bank to deliver underused land to market.
    3. Promote the renovation of the most suitable existing building stock for contemporary manufacturing uses.
    4. Adopt the land use recommendations of the Citywide 2020 plan through zoning.
    5. Consider “Manufacturing Innovation Zones” that attract and focus public and private investment and assistance toward innovation and productivity.
    6. Continue support and use CIRI and WIRE-Net to connect businesses to improvement resources including our universities, Magnet, WIRE-Net, and the assets of the City-County Workforce system. 
    7. Begin dialogues among city regulatory functions (Fire prevention, Health and Air Quality, Building and Housing, others) to ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency as well as compliance.
    8. Reinforce “smart manufacturing” policies at state and federal level, and encourage state and federal incentive policies that create regional growth and not outmigration of existing industries.  This could include, for example, pushing for more effective enforcement of existing trade agreements; and working for state policies to help reign in skyrocketing health care costs.
    9. Promote more water-intensive industries such as computer-chip manufacturing.
  1. “Center of the Center.”  Strengthen the amenities, attractions, businesses and residential environment in the central city and its downtown as a keystone for regional economic growth.

    1. Convention Center.  Create a contemporary and competitive convention center to support a vibrant, 24-hour downtown district and to create jobs in the hospitality, restaurant and related economic sectors.
    2. “First 5 Strategy.”  Fill in empty spaces between the already successful nodes of Downtown activity, by focusing on five high vacancy buildings and storefronts of opportunity.  Consider re-tenancy, rehabilitation or entirely repurposing the now-obsolete spaces.
    3. Connect Strengths.  Downtown has a variety of different strong but relatively isolated activity centers -- Warehouse District, Gateway, Playhouse Square, Flats, North Coast Harbor -- which often feel like islands unto themselves--to one another will make residents, workers, and visitors feel they are a part of a larger and more cohesive whole.
    4. Vigorously protect and enhance the American urban character of Cleveland as a key comparative advantage.  Ensure each new development adds commensurate value.
    5. Grow downtown and commercial business clusters.  Many downtown business service firms (technology, accounting, others) are small businesses and benefit from a central location with proximity to customers. Consider key high vacancy office buildings or above ground floor retail space in low to mid rise buildings for home-based and incubator businesses, technology or micro business service firms.  Make downtown and other commercial districts business friendly with allied services.  Creative city-financing would assist property owners to retrofit the buildings to today’s desired office space and design for small businesses.
    6. Capitalize on Cleveland’s dense fiber network and other technology infrastructure. Reinforce its role as regional technology hub.  Replicate successes of technology centers, like Idea Center.
    7. Vigorously recruit consumer product showrooms to Euclid Avenue and beyond and link to associated local firms as part of a “District of Design” strategy.
    8. Activate Streetlife.  Recruit and design for increased tenancies, densities, mix of uses, 24 hours uses, diversities of places to go for a diversity or audiences in downtown and commercial districts in other neighborhoods.  Get more people on the street as both an indicator of nearby economic health and as an attractor to more,
    9. Continue to address perceptions and realities of Downtown safety. 
    10. Continue to expand, improve, and market our tourism attractions to bring visitors to the City from inside and outside the region.
    11. Market Cleveland.  Tell Cleveland’s story to Cleveland, the nation and the world.  Communicate what business activity is already going on, continue positive placements in national media and capitalize on the Cavaliers’ television exposure in China.
  1. Learning.  Strengthen public education and access to lifelong workforce learning opportunities as a foundation for building a globally competitive economy and personal prosperity for Cleveland residents.

    1. Align city resources with needs of residents and demands of the employer marketplace.
    2. Integrate workforce development activities within the City’s economic development practice, as workforce is one of several “factors of development” for business.
    3. Focus city resources to create year-round educational and workforce experiences in partnership with Cleveland Municipal School District as fundamental to long-term workforce competitiveness. 
    4. Engage employers to determine how best to deploy resources to retain and grow employment opportunities for Clevelanders. 
    5. Invest in people for the long-term; align their skills and interests with long-term job prospects.
    6. Use the City’s considerable IT infrastructure to bring the technology skills of all of our region’s residents into the 21st century.
    7. Use our regional assets to create opportunities so new workers will choose to relocate here, thus expanding our labor pool to meet business expansion opportunities.
    8. Continue to petition the Ohio General Assembly to address the proven inequities that currently exist in the way school districts are funded within Ohio.
    9. Establish ties with the Cleveland Institute of Art to allow for internships for industrial design students to work with small local manufacturing firms on new product development, product refinement, and possible expansion into new markets.
    10. Work with the Cleveland School District to initiate a “design-focused” high school that would expose more students to the elements of industrial design.  Identify private funding for the initiative.
    11. Establish a city liaison to integrate higher education institutions into the City’s economic development program.
    12. Encourage local employers to provide on-site job training in cooperation with neighborhood-based organizations.  Consider making such services a requirement for City financial assistance, as appropriate.
  1. Opportunity and Equity.  Ensure that all Clevelanders have the opportunity to benefit from local economic development activity.

    1. Envision and achieve opportunities for local economic impact beyond mere “job counts and tax base” and link these directly to benefit Cleveland residents and businesses when offering a business assistance package as “performance based incentives”— i.e., the more a business delivers, the higher the proposed level of incentive.
    2. Use development deals to consider additional opportunities within a businesses’ supply and value chains—such as “import substitution” of goods currently sourced from elsewhere and “supply chain mining” of providing firms that might benefit from being closer to their customers in Cleveland.
    3. Link residents’ opportunity to economic development activity through the creation of employment programs and products that can be negotiated as part of a business assistance package.  Wherever possible, consider offering value to employers (such as pre-screened applicants or customized training prior to opening a new facility) rather than merely mandating local hires. 
    4. Consider targeted microenterprise, entrepreneurial and small business start-up programs as a means of opportunity for residents to build wealth.
    5. Focus on business activity already “anchored” in the community (such as educational and cultural institutions, churches, publicly-owned assets) as starting points for local wealth creation strategies such as “Buy Local” efforts.  Aggressively investigate other local wealth creation strategies.
    6. Even the most seemingly blighted neighborhood still has assets, including the voluntary associations and organizations.  Map and tap these assets.
    7. Improve transportation options for residents to places of employment.
    8. Focus efforts on locating businesses in neighborhoods with highest rates of unemployment.
  1. Infrastructure.  Plan long-term, coordinated improvements in roadways, transit, waterways, fiber and other infrastructure to foster retention and expansion of the economic base.

    1. Launch City’s 5 year Capital Improvements Plan to support our manufacturing, industrial/commercial land bank downtown, and other neighborhood development plans
    2. Advocate as a region to state and federal governments for improvements to existing infrastructure in order to more easily connect Clevelanders to the city’s and region’s employment centers.
    3. Make use of the waterways as amenities and a value-enhancing element.
    4. Strengthen and continually improve Cleveland’s airport system as a powerful local and regional economic asset that provides critical access to the world economy for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Strengthen the relationship with Continental Airlines to ensure Cleveland has access to the world and the world has access to us.
    5. Maintain, reinforce, deepen the public realm (rights of way, sidewalk and tree lawns, streetscapes, and even the private facades behind them, as well as publicly owned property and facilities.) Use new development as a means to further enhance that public realm.
    6. Move critical infrastructure projects from concept to engineering, thus “fast tracking” them by enhancing their chances of being funded and implemented.
    7. Pursue the study, funding, and implementation of capital projects as recommended by the 2020 Citywide Plan.
    8. Encourage investment in commercial spaces, both downtown and in neighborhoods, which can be connected to the citywide and worldwide fiber optic networks
    9. Encourage the creation of wireless technology zones in public areas throughout the City.
  1. Adaptive Re-Use.  Bring back into productive economic use advantageously located vacant properties and brownfield sites.

    1. Use Industrial/Commercial Land Bank to bring unproductive properties and buildings back into productive use.
    2. Pursue progressive enforcement options against property owners with blighting influences. Ensure minimum standards of repair, cleanliness and safety are always maintained.
    3. Seek external resources to cover the extraordinary costs of redeveloping urban properties, recognize the increased revenue benefits to urban schools and local government.
    4. Seek ways to improve the value of properties and buildings through reuse.
    5. Promote more construction site “deconstruction” and re-use of materials rather than demolition of structures for landfills.
  1. Eco-Industry.  Make Cleveland a national leader in the development and application of green building, environmental remediation, alternative energy and sustainability technologies.

    1. Pilot, then mainstream, high-performance building guidelines that reduce business operating costs and enhance personnel savings as well as generate demand for locally-produced goods and services.  Consider the need for finance mechanisms to offset higher “first cost” items, repayable through eventual long-term savings.
    2. The City of Cleveland should take advantage of any and all opportunities to save money and/or reduce pollution by investing in and promoting energy derived from non-traditional sources.
    3. Offer financial assistance to locally-based entrepreneurial firms that wish to utilize bio-technology to help absorb toxic materials from polluted sites.
    4. Devise unique incentive programs that will encourage installation of site-specific wind/solar hybrid power generation for manufacturers who utilize large amounts of electricity.
  1. Land Assembly.  Assemble freeway-accessible sites large enough to accommodate industrial and office park development.

    1. Work more actively with private sector partners to use their expertise to physically and economically analyze underutilized properties and develop strategies for reusing them.
    2. Consider the use of eminent domain to obtain highly-underutilized and blighted railroad-owned land.
    3. Assemble sites and undertake take transportation improvements that minimize conflict between residential and industrial uses.
  1. Regionalism.  Promote the region’s broad range of business assets in competing collectively to attract businesses from beyond our regional economy.

    1. Conduct analyses to understand at a finer grain the city’s economic make up and its role within the regional economy.  Match asset strengths with the business location needs of high growth-high yield sectors.
    2. Field an “offense” for City business recruitment by promoting regional assets to targeted national and international business segments and firms.
    3. Collectively strengthen the region’s economic assets with a coordinated approach to state and federal funding agencies.  Ensure regulations and policies at those levels ensure a competitive central city and region.
    4. Ensure Cleveland is a competitive location for business by being predictable.  Promote the Citywide Plan as the overall development framework and ensure other entities and agencies align their development-related activities with the plan, reinforce it and avoid fragmentation or diminished value by countering it.
    5. Share intelligence among economic development intermediaries and allied business support organizations so all relevant programs can be presented to a business/entrepreneur in a “one stop” fashion.  Develop systems for cross referrals and “hot hand-offs” of potential clients to administering agencies.  Develop outcome measures for loans made and business growth achieved as a result of interactions with these intermediaries, not merely counts of businesses consulted.
    6. Land more deals.  Proactively coordinate efforts of local and state government and major non-profit economic development financial assistance providers (Port, Team NEO, Growth Capital, WECO, others) with respect to particular development projects.
    7. Partner with local institutions and local municipalities to combine purchasing power in such a way as to encourage the formation of local industries to provide more energy-efficient and sustainable products and services.
    8. Discuss with surrounding communities the possibility of collaboration on the construction of an alternative-power generation station, such as a wind farm, biomass-fueled furnace, or fuel cell utility, whose output could be used to lower energy costs for all partnering communities and to allow for low-cost energy to be used as an economic development tool.
    9. Discuss tax-revenue sharing with members of the Northeast Ohio First Suburbs Consortium.
    10. Promote the City of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio region as the Industrial Design Capital east of the Rocky Mountains.
    11. Eliminate incentive battles between municipalities and work together toward developing regional incentive strategies for businesses.
  1. Incentives.  Use pubic financial incentives in proportion to the resulting local economic benefits, while ensuring that assistance program meets the full range of capital needs.

    1. Identify where new gaps in financial products might exist based on the experience of these intermediaries and businesses that have used the existing capital products (or sought to).  Create specialized product to meet unique urban redevelopment needs.
    2. Maximize the use of private sector financial tools, using public sector tools where applicable, to offset some risk to enable more development to happen that wouldn’t occur without public sector involvement. 
    3. Seek ways to monetize and quantify the benefits of urban reinvestment to government in tax revenue and avoided social spending.  Use as a justification for cost-effective state and federal government investment to spur even more urban redevelopment. Conversely, work with other municipalities nationally on an “urban agenda” to remove policies that harm the economic well-being of cities and incur avoidable costs to taxpayers.
    4. Adopt a “100 year” time frame for public decision-making.  Make one test of development be whether it adds value for the next 100 years. 
    5. Use efficiencies as one criterion of where the public sector should take action.
    6. Tap into local business networks as an entree to their national contacts for business recruitment.
    7. Promote our locational assets to businesses similar to those already existing in the area.
    8. Increase promotion of existing Empowerment Zone funds to qualifying businesses.
  1. “Hassle Factor.”  Make it easier and more predictable to do business in and with the City by implementing a customer-focused approach to regulation and approvals and by providing incentives in a manner that is transparent and easy to navigate.

    1. Land use planning, zoning and other regulatory and permitted functions must be up front, clear, transparent, rational and predictable.  Wherever possible make regulations “performance based,” self-verifiable rather than dependant on unclear or unpredictable standards and processes created to enforce them.  Set the bar and enable those who meet it to develop “by right” not by committee approval.   
    2. Enact standards and clear, enforceable regulations that prevent diminution of value.  Especially in areas with low investment activity for periods of time, do not let future value be diminished by land uses, building types or other activities that degrade value in adjacent properties, streetscapes or districts. Encourage current and future investment by ensuring this value will not be negatively impacted by adjacent or nearby actions not consistent with the long-term and Citywide plans.
    3. Institute and ensure a “customer-focused” orientation for regulatory activities.  Approach the applicant in policy and practices with a “getting to yes” spirit.  Regulators must make it their business to help business invest. This means going beyond “no” to help wherever possible, a potential investor to get around obstacles while meeting or exceeding minimum government standards.
    4. Adopt internal coordination and transfer procedures to ensure business inquiries and requests are quickly routed to the appropriate division to be resolved.
    5. Create certainty for reuse with predictable, enforceable land use, zoning and other regulations.
    6. Ensure zoning and other regulation supports the appropriate reuse of buildings.  Reconcile conflicting policies that hamper such reuse and drive development elsewhere beyond the city.
    7. Consider the multiple layers of government regulation and resolve conflicts where possible so that all policies reinforce the direction of the Citywide land use plan.
    8. Maintain active relationships with existing companies by establishing regular intervals of contact in order to identify barriers for staying and growing in the City.
    9. Allocate funding to allow for the hiring of 2-3 more Plans Examiners in the Department of Building and Housing  to streamline the permitting process for those wishing to invest in the City.
  1. Quality of Life.  Create vibrant urban neighborhoods capable of attracting individuals who will fuel entrepreneurship and “new economy” businesses.
    1. Ensure sub-area and finer-grain plans developed by the private sector, Community Development Corporations, or other intermediaries seek to reinforce and implement the policies and strategies in the Citywide land use plan and are undertaken in consultation with the City Planning Commission.
    2. Create a program that will attract developers who will be willing to work with property owners to renovate existing upper-floors (of mixed-use buildings in selected corridors) into upscale apartments or condos.
    3. Work with small businesses (existing and potential) such as coffee shops, art galleries, dance studios, artists, etc., to help finance start-ups or expansion into new neighborhoods through the use of loan guarantees or micro-loans.
  1. Arts and Culture.  Utilize the arts and cultural offerings to attract highly talented and skilled individuals to live and work in the city.

    1. Create a Cabinet-level Department of Arts and Culture that would be a highly-visible co-promoter of sports-related events such as the Cleveland Grand Prix, the Gravity Games, etc.
    2. Establish and market “arts districts” as an approach to revitalizing neighborhoods where galleries and other arts venues are concentrated
    3. Capitalize on the presence of theaters, museums and other major arts venues as catalysts for neighborhood and regional development.
    4. Create local mechanisms for permanent and predictable public funding for a diversity of arts endeavors in the Cleveland region, supplementing private and other governmental funding sources
    5. Strengthen the City of Cleveland’s new public art program and work with other governments, developers and corporations to incorporate public art as a standard component of development projects throughout the city.
    6. Use public art to strengthen the “sense of place” and highlight the heritage and character of each Cleveland neighborhood
    7. Create supportive environments for local artists by establishing live-work districts, where obsolete industrial buildings are transformed into residences and studios through the use of financial incentives and innovative zoning
    8. Ensure that residents of all neighborhoods, income levels and ages have affordable access to the arts, including arts programming in the public schools
    9. Ensure that the arts in Cleveland fully reflect and represent the cultural and demographic diversity of the Cleveland community

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Economic Development
  Introduction  
  Acknowledgements  
  Citywide Plan Home Page  
  Citywide Chapters  
  Population  
  Housing  
  Retail  
  Economic Development  
  Recreation and Open Space  
  Sustainability  
  Arts and Culture  
  Education and Community Service  
  Transportation and Transit  
  Safety  
  Preservation  
  Opportunity and Equity  
  Planning District Chapters  
District 1
District 2
District 3
District 4
District 5
District 6