Issue: January/February 2012
Power 100: Albert Ratner
Co-chairman emeritus, Forest City Enterprises
Albert Ratner is bullish on Cleveland.
“I can’t remember a time when we’ve had better people in key positions in the community,” says Ratner, the co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Enterprises, pointing to County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson as examples.
Though Ratner stepped down from the position of co-chairman of Forest City Enterprises in June, he works every day handling Forest City business and advancing the civic causes he loves. Lately, that’s been Global Cleveland and its new Welcome Hub on Public Square, which aims to fuel our economy by attracting newcomers.
“We have the framework to become what we want to be,” he says.
INSIDE BUSINESS: Why do we need an organization like Global Cleveland?
Population growth is the key to economic success. We’re working [with individuals] we describe as newcomers, whether they’re from out of the country or from other cities, to grow our population. We have approximately 30,000 jobs unfilled in Northeast Ohio, so we’re trying to fill those jobs to be an advocate for growth. In 1940, foreign-born people were over 20 percent [of Cleveland’s population] and now they’re down to 4.5 percent. We’re not representative of the makeup of the country.
IB: Your father and his three siblings started Forest City in 1920 after emigrating from Poland to the U.S. Has coming from an immigrant family influenced your involvement in Global Cleveland?
I spent the earliest years of my life among immigrants. I understood the desire and the difficulty in acclimating, and the wonderful opportunities that generation had to succeed. But Global Cleveland isn’t about immigrants, it’s about bringing more people here. I don’t want it to come off that immigration is going to save us. It’s a piece of what we need to do.
IB: What makes you hopeful about the city’s future?
We have a new county executive, Ed FitzGerald, who I think is doing a really good job. When I go around the country visiting other cities and seeing the financial difficulties they’re having, Frank Jackson seems to have done the best job of anybody in managing the city.
IB: What advice do you have for these leaders?
I don’t have to give them any advice. You don’t teach effectiveness. What you have is a great number of very effective people. It’s a network. We have the best network that I’ve seen in this community for a long, long time.
IB: Why do you think these people make lists like the Power 100?
You could be in the worst city in the world or the best city in the world and you could still make a list. We can all be terrific, but if we’re in a city that doesn’t function, how terrific are we? In all these years [Inside Business has been doing the Power 100], whether the city was good or bad, you still had a list of 100 people. Do you have the kind of city where [they are] proud to be one of the 100 people? I don’t look at people in terms of power. I look at them in terms of their lives and how they live it.
IB: How do you define power?
The way I’ve always felt about power is, if you have to use it, you’ve lost. If the only way you can exist is through power, then you’ve lost. Stalin had power, right? How did he use it? He killed a bunch of people. The people who have power sometimes are the ones who are powerless.
IB: Are there a few people in town whom you call when you need to advance a cause?
The beauty of this city is that there aren’t a couple of people. Depending on what you want to do, if you want to do something medical, there are a couple of people. If you want to do something with the school system, there are a couple of people. I don’t think we’re at the point like we were with Cleveland Tomorrow where there was a small select group of people you could go to to get something done. It’s broader than that. I think that’s a good thing.
IB: Think you’ll ever fully retire?
I have a mantra that the word “retire” means you have to tire; then you retire. When I tire, I’ll think of retiring. So far, I’m not tired.
This record has been viewed 1798