Collaborative Group of Business and Civic Leaders Announce Cleveland Innovation Project

Project designed to bolster Greater Cleveland’s innovation economy by engaging the community and producing strategies to accelerate innovation and drive inclusive economic growth

Release Date: 6.10.2019

CLEVELAND – A working group involving five of the city’s prominent economic development and philanthropic organizations announced today an initiative – the Cleveland Innovation Project — to stimulate innovation to drive inclusive economic growth in Greater Cleveland.

The effort, based on research and input from across Northeast Ohio, is rooted in The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s (GCP) strategic plan and is being conducted with the support of GCP, The Fund For Our Economic Future, The Cleveland Foundation, JumpStart and Team NEO. The group is leveraging research, data and inclusive input to trigger community engagement, decision-making and prioritization. The goal, based on aligning around an assessment of Greater Cleveland’s innovation ecosystem, is to spur sustainable momentum in fast-growth industries and strengthen enablers of the innovation economy

To focus the Cleveland Innovation Project, a Steering Committee consisting of prominent area corporate and community leaders and innovation experts will provide guidance to, and consolidate its findings of, a series of workstream subcommittees, whose responsibilities will include delving into specific sectors and recommending data-based strategies to help drive the region’s future economy.

Current members of the Steering Committee include:

  • Bishara Addison, Senior Manager, Policy & Strategic Initiatives, Towards Employment
  • Albert Green, Advisor to the Kent Displays Board of Directors; AMG Consulting Group
  • Lynn-Ann Gries, Managing Partner, First Check Fund
  • Tommy Mihaljevic, President & CEO, Cleveland Clinic
  • Margaret Mitchell, President & CEO, YWCA
  • Beth Mooney, President & CEO, KeyBank
  • Charu Ramanathan, Co-Founder & CEO, Vitalxchange
  • Michael Regelski, SVP/Chief Technology Officer Electrical Sector, Eaton Corp.
  • Eric Schnur, President & CEO, Lubrizol Corp.
  • Baiju Shah, Managing Director, Accelevate Ventures
  • Mark Smucker, President & CEO, The J.M. Smucker Co.
  • Barbara Snyder, President, Case Western Reserve University
  • Mark Williams, Managing Director, Manchester Partners
  • Tom Williams, Chairman & CEO, Parker Hannifin Corp.
  • Tom Zenty, President & CEO, University Hospitals

“This is a critical time in the ongoing development of our business community and our ability to harness the power of innovation for inclusive economic growth,” said Joe Roman, President and CEO of GCP. “This effort will align our community around our best assets and opportunities. It will dovetail, complement and collaborate with other economic development efforts either being considered or underway.”

Mark Ross, Cleveland Office Managing Partner for PwC and a GCP board member who has been providing leadership on the project, said, “This effort was created to engage stakeholders across the broader Greater Cleveland community and develop executable strategies which when implemented, will help chart a course for greater innovation across economic sectors of our community. My colleagues and I believe increased collaboration will help to make the whole of our community greater than the sum of its parts and could not think of a better way to spur innovation and have a lasting, positive impact.”

The effort will gather data from two sources: (1) interviews and input with corporate leadership and entities, civic and philanthropic organizations, entrepreneurs and start-up companies, capital providers as well as academic and healthcare institutions, and (2) the review of significant secondary, quantitative data regarding the region’s innovation assets and performance, particularly compared to peers, as well as best practices in other regions.

To ensure the process is inclusive, JumpStart already has helped coordinate two focus groups, one of community leaders and one of entrepreneurs and small/medium-sized business owners.

“This effort will help our community create a new platform from which to scale and grow — a model that has proven highly successful in other thriving communities,” said JumpStart President Cathy Belk. “What we want to do better than other communities is to ensure the process and the impact of the work is inclusive, so we make progress not only in the growth of innovation industries but in the opportunity for many more people to participate in and benefit from that growth.”

“Inclusion must be built in from the beginning if this effort is to serve all the citizens of greater Cleveland,” said Brad Whitehead, President of the Fund for our Economic Future. “And, we seek extensive collaboration with other groups from the community.”

According to Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, Greater Cleveland must first take inventory of its innovation ecosystem, and importantly, be diligent about identifying opportunities that advance the local economy in an equitable way by embracing the diverse skillsets of current residents and the future workforce.

“For many years, the conversation around economic development has been siloed by industry, but in order to compete in today’s global marketplace, we must leverage all of our strengths and find ways to work across sectors and initiatives to lift up all of Cleveland,” said Richard. “Our people are our greatest asset. The possibilities are endless if we can keep residents at the center of our thinking and create an environment where ideas matter and the necessary skills are nurtured and fostered from the outset.”  

The group effort will result in an actionable strategy identifying how Northeast Ohio can develop an innovation infrastructure that will accelerate innovation and inclusive economic growth.

“The Cleveland Innovation Project will enable the strong companies that we already have to maintain their global competitiveness,” said Bill Koehler, President and CEO of Team NEO. “It will further diversify the economy with more companies with 21st century capabilities.”