Issue: May/June 2012
Wanted: Crazy Ideas
The old ways of doing things haven’t worked, so here are six theories for jump-starting our region and attracting talent. (Plus, free parking!)
Albert Einstein famously said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If he’s right, then we have a lot of insanity going on these days: Too many workplaces continue to do the same things, hoping for different results.
Unfortunately, plenty of challenges in our region are addressed with the same tired solutions. For instance, Northeast Ohio needs dramatic increases in new, challenging jobs to attract and retain quality, top-performing employees. While many initiatives from a number of economic development organizations have attempted to address this need, they’ve enjoyed only modest success to date.
The silver lining from the Great Recession for our region is that the competitive playing field for talent and business opportunities has been leveled. In 2011, Northeast Ohio was no longer playing catch up with other parts of the country — we were finally at the same starting line. As 2012 progresses, we must recognize now as the time to make swift, significant and potentially radical changes to traditional workplaces and, in some cases, our region’s approach to supporting employers of choice for talented, top-performing people.
The opportunity to make quantum, progressive leaps in our local economy by attracting and keeping great talent is more prominent than Einstein’s hair. How we go about seizing these opportunities remains to be seen. Since the old solutions will produce the same modest growth and predictable results, maybe it’s time to start getting a little more sane by implementing crazy ideas that no one thinks will work. Here are a few examples of some out-there ideas I’ve heard lately:
The Northeast Ohio Land Rush. The area has quite a bit of land that is wasting away, such as Aviation High School along the Lake Erie shore. What about giving away attractive vacant land to companies that are willing to build at the site and guarantee hundreds of new jobs to the area? As an incentive to relocate, don’t charge these companies property taxes. More people with good jobs would certainly introduce significant dollars into our local economy. Vacant land with decrepit buildings is a sign of a dying region. It’s time to clean up our wastelands if we want this region to get some
Bridge Sponsors. The rusted bridges over our freeways provide frequent reminders of our deteriorating infrastructure. Rather than wait for our local or state governments to clean up these eyesores, invite companies to sponsor a bridge or two. Sponsoring organizations would be asked to commit to a five-year financial sponsorship of a bridge, where the dollars would be used to repaint the exteriors. In turn, the sponsors would have their company names painted on the bridges with their corporate tagline. It gives businesses better exposure than traditional billboards, and in the process, beautifies our freeway bridges.
Free Parking Everywhere! The parking lot owners aren’t going to like this one, but paid parking should be outlawed. It is nothing more than a nuisance and a firewall to visitors and an impact on the take-home pay of downtown workers. The cities within our region are so sorely lacking daily visitors that the municipalities should be paying visitors to park.
Is Everyone In? Develop a multi-million dollar, yearlong, national ad campaign (sponsored by area employers and economic development groups) that showcases the livability of Northeast Ohio and its job opportunities. Throw in the free parking and free land, and I bet our region has a rush of companies very interested in making Northeast Ohio their new
Only Good News. Challenge the local newspapers to only print good news. The break from the status quo would be refreshing, and this would likely provide record advertising sales. The one problem would be having enough staff at the newspapers to cover these stories since there’s far more good news in Northeast Ohio than bad. And, if you truly are a bad news junkie, there are plenty of Internet resources to get your fill.
Tariffs. To encourage local companies to buy Northeast Ohio products and services, place a significant tariff on goods and services purchased outside our region. Or, if you prefer the carrot approach, provide substantial tax credits to companies and individuals that buy local.
There are hundreds of ideas out there to which traditionalists and naysayers might respond, “We can’t do that.”
Well, guess what? The old solutions used to address our ongoing challenges are not solving a heck of a lot. Throw in a lack of leadership, and you get rusted-out bridges, declining populations, fewer jobs, housing blight, rising crime and a host of other issues that keep us from taking our region to new heights of prosperity.
Becoming a region known for its great workplaces and forward-thinking economic development initiatives will drive great workers from around the country to our communities. Let’s try out some crazy stuff that no one else is doing and watch the magic happen. Just remember, the next time someone tells you that your business idea is crazy, it’s probably one that will work.
This record has been viewed 734