Answers to Questions about the Regional Competitiveness Council Recommendations

What can we learn from successful regions? Can we really expect to replicate their success?

Regions that have enjoyed strong growth in recent years are marked by a concentration of companies and other strengths in industries with high growth potential, which our “go-big” approach will seek to achieve and surpass. We’ve also seen an attitude that recognizes local assets can be most fully leveraged when connected to others in the region. We also see a commitment to bringing the necessary resources and expertise to bear to help drive growth.

Why is a new strategy so important?

Despite enormous progress over the past decade, we recognize that Northeast Ohio must move even more aggressively to build its next economy.

As a region, we have done a lot of things right. For example, we have made great strides in stimulating entrepreneurship, identifying promising new industry opportunities, rejuvenating the manufacturing sector, establishing a sense of regional connectedness and creating intermediaries that have facilitated local economic competitiveness work.

But this is no longer best practice, and we are losing ground on the national and global stage. And that gap will continue to widen if we continue on our current path. The RECS recommendations are aimed at shaping a successful future for Northeast Ohio.

What is there about this strategy that will make Northeast Ohio more competitive in the global economy of the 21st century?

In addition to leveraging innovation and playing to Northeast Ohio’s many strengths, this strategy will provide the adaptability necessary for our region to take advantage of new opportunities that may evolve or emerge over time.

How will you ensure localized adherence to a regional strategy?

This is a regional economic competitiveness strategy that was created at the urging of and with the strong support of our local partners, who have asked for the tools and best practices to help them succeed. We are confident that they will welcome this sharpened focus, which will benefit both individual communities and our region as a whole.

We’ve tried regional strategizing and coordination before; how is this different?

We have had good success over the last decade with these strategy efforts. This is an opportunity to take the strong work to date to the next level in the never-ending pursuit of global economic competitiveness. Primary differences include a collaborative organization with consolidated services and expertise, clearer accountability without overlap, and a more focused, “go-big” approach.

What does “collaboration” mean in this context?

It means being a shared resource to local economic competitiveness organizations – a regional resource that helps Northeast Ohio chambers be most successful by providing expertise, best practices and tools such as research, data analytics and “playbooks” to support their efforts.

How will this approach better enable “disconnected” populations to participate in the regional economy?

Because building an inclusive economy is a key component of this regional strategy, we are confident that there will be more consistency in efforts to provide opportunities for all segments of our population to participate in and benefit from job growth.

How will the new organization help to brand Northeast Ohio as a hub of innovation?

By integrating industry-specific knowledge and the ability to connect clients to innovation and supply chain partners with traditional R&E efforts, we offer more value when meeting with companies to discuss how they can expand their Northeast Ohio operations. We believe this integration of innovation and R&E will lead to more growth in our technology and high-growth sectors, and will become a national model for innovation-based economic development.

As part of the new organization, Cleveland Plus will continue to generate positive national media coverage of the region’s economic development progress. They will work with regional leaders in innovation and technology, whether in industry or research, to tell the story of the amazing assets and opportunities in Northeast Ohio.

In addition, Northeast Ohio has a number of innovation thought leaders and practitioners such as Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart, who help brand the region as a hub of innovation. Under Ray’s leadership the region has gained national recognition for JumpStart’s innovative investing and high-impact business assistance programs that have generated significant growth outcomes. Ray serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) as well as the Board of Directors of Invent Now, Inc.

How is the cluster strategy different than the one we have now?

While our work with emerging clusters will continue, going forward we will take a more holistic, in-depth approach than before to clusters such as biomedical where we already have a strong base of established companies and see opportunity to build upon that foundation.

 

What other kinds of clusters do you envision? Who will choose them?

One of the tasks of the newly created organization will be to assemble a group of informed and engaged business, academic, philanthropic and civic leaders to thoroughly analyze our region’s strengths and opportunities within a wide range of high-potential emerging clusters. Indeed, such work was part of the effort that led us to this point, and we will leverage NorTech’s road mapping process, which has become a national model. While certainly not an exhaustive list, clusters to be considered might include such areas as chemicals/polymers, instruments/controls/flexible electronics and shale-gas supply chain.

How does the “scaleups” concept differ from our current approach to entrepreneurial acceleration?

The scaleups strategy goes beyond startups and recognizes that significant additional opportunity exists with established businesses that are already demonstrating strong growth potential. The scaleups initiative will seek to improve their performance even further.

Your goal is to “accelerate the pace of job creation by 50 percent and ultimately outperform the nation.” How many jobs would that create?

If we accelerated the pace of job creation by 50 percent but don’t catch up to the U.S. growth rate in five years, this would result in about 110,000 net new jobs over 10 years. However, if we accelerated the pace of job creation and reach the U.S. growth rate in five years, (our stated goal) this would result in about 155,000 net new jobs.

What difference does the new structure make?

The essential difference is that the organizations responsible for economic competitiveness at the local level will be coming together with the business and philanthropic community to invest in a shared services resource. This will facilitate coordination of strategy development and utilization of resources across the region and will address several gaps and overlaps facing the system today. In addition to setting a consolidated strategy for the region, the new entity will provide centralized research, trend analysis and industry expertise; create consistent metric tracking and accountability; and coordinate fundraising and allocation across priority areas.

Isn’t the new organization similar to the Team NEO that already existed? Why not just adapt Team NEO’s charter to suit the needs that have been identified?

While the new organization will encompass Team NEO’s current core functions and adopt its name, it will also leverage NorTech’s strengths while adding additional functions. This will provide a much broader scope as it offers connectivity and resources – including clusters, workforce development and retention/expansion – to support economic competitiveness initiatives that occur across a series of local markets within the region.

How will this affect our region’s relationship with JobsOhio?

We would expect that relationship to become even stronger, as we intend to follow JobsOhio’s example of creating economic development strategies to attract jobs and investment to Northeast Ohio. Our focus on the entire system – retention and expansion, attraction, workforce and entrepreneurship – is very consistent with JobsOhio’s philosophy. In fact, the new organization will become the JobsOhio Regional Partner for Northeast Ohio. Other regions, such as greater Cincinnati, have recently realigned the organization that serves as the JobsOhio Regional Network Partner to make them more effective.

Who will run the new organization? How will it be governed, funded and staffed?

The funding partners will include the business community, JobsOhio, philanthropic organizations, chambers of commerce, and other economic competitiveness organizations within Northeast Ohio. Its governing board will be comprised of business and philanthropic leaders nominated by the funding partners, plus JobsOhio. Decisions on leadership and staffing will be the responsibility of that governing body.

What happens to the leadership, staffs and boards of the current Team NEO and NorTech? What about the various other regional economic development organizations that exist today?

The specialized expertise and services capabilities that currently reside within both Team NEO and NorTech will be as important as ever to Northeast Ohio’s economic competitiveness efforts. By moving those functions into the new organization, our goal is to create a more holistic suite of resources that can be leveraged to serve local needs. That clearly will require talented people with a wide range of requisite skills. The NorTech Board voted to approve the plan on November 10. The Team NEO Board voted to approve the plan on November 5, and also elected a new Board for the new organization. Meanwhile, Team NEO/NorTech work continues. Funding needs for both continue through year-end. While a search for an interim CEO is underway, further discussion on staffing is premature. The other regional intermediary organizations will continue to operate as before.

Who will lead the new Team NEO?

We intend to name an interim CEO in November, likely someone from within the region’s economic development system, while we conduct a national search.

How much more is all of this going to cost? Where’s the money going to come from?

At the outset, we would anticipate that the partners would maintain at least their current funding levels in support of economic competitiveness programs. Over time, we would expect to present the case for increased funding in order to strengthen the capabilities we are able to provide.