Issue: July/August 2012
Building The Momentum
Ohio business leaders are optimistic about our economic future.
Nearly 700 people turned out for the third event in the Business Leaders Series, “Swing State: Building on Our Momentum,” which took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland on May 21.
The session featured four of Ohio’s most prominent leaders in business, education and health care: Christopher Connor, chairman and CEO of Sherwin-Williams; Stephen Steinour, chairman, president and CEO of Huntington Bank; Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College; and Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. It was hosted by the City Club of Cleveland, Inside Business magazine, and WKYC-Channel 3.
David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press” served as moderator of the event, focusing the conversation on Northeast Ohio’s economic strengths as the presidential election approaches.
“Ohio plays a big role in electing the president,” Gregory said. “It’s important to understand where things are and where they’re going.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to the panelists: Moving beyond the region’s outdated Rust Belt image and shifting the national conversation toward Ohio’s recent economic growth.
“We have a skilled workforce combined with growing industry – that’s what’s driving this economic rebirth,” Steinour said. “It’s about reclaiming the American Dream.
Public universities are a major com-ponent to achieving that dream, according to Thornton.
“When innovation happens, we need to make sure our curriculum is changing to meet those needs,” she said.
And with a new building under construction on Tri-C’s campus devoted to training related to Northeast Ohio’s booming shale industry, Thornton is leading by example.
Another way the region has grown is through development in the service community, said Cosgrove. The Cleveland Clinic has 41,000 employees, the second largest employer in the state and the largest in Cleveland’s history.
“This is an economic force and it’s a force that is a major attractor and employer,” he said.
The Medical Mart under construction in downtown Cleveland will become another economic driver for the community and further add jobs, according to Cosgrove. The state-of-the-art healthcare convention center is set to open its doors in Fall 2013.
Connor said he believes maintaining Northeast Ohio’s surge is largely about job creation. He said business leaders in the region have to be better at creating jobs than those in other areas of the country.
“We’re going to hire employees as our businesses are growing and improving,” he said. “The momentum here is palpable and keeping that momentum going
Gregory and the panelists agreed that one threat to economic growth is the state of political gridlock among elected officials in Washington. The answer to getting the economy moving again, according to Gregory, could lie in the private sector.
And when it comes to success in the private sector, Northeast Ohio could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
But for that to happen, the perception of the region has to change.
Cosgrove noted that despite Greater Cleveland’s progress, outsiders are still quick to joke about the fire on the Cuyahoga River that happened more than 40 years ago.
“We’ve moved past that. The fire is out,” Cosgrove said. “Clevelanders are walking with a new sense of vigor and pride in their community.”
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