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Business Assistance Groups Refocus on Urban Core

By Chuck Soder, Crain's Cleveland Business

Northeast Ohio's poor inner city neighborhoods are still poor.

After more than a decade of work to rebuild the region's economy, local economic development groups haven't put much of a dent in that problem, according to officials from two organizations that fund them: The Cleveland Foundation and the Fund for Our Economic Future.

But they're working on it.

Statistics suggest that the economic gap between Northeast Ohio's suburbs and its core cities continued to grow as the nation recovered from the recession.

That problem has pushed several local economic development groups to rethink the way they provide services and who receives them.

They've recently launched several new programs targeting minorities and inner city neighborhoods — programs designed to help minority entrepreneurs, create jobs in poor neighborhoods and guide city kids into good jobs.

This isn't completely new territory for economic development groups like JumpStart, BioEnterprise, Magnet and Team NEO. They've always been tasked with making sure minorities and women benefit from their work — making sure that their work is “inclusive.”

But for the most part their diversity and economic inclusion programs were “small initiatives within a big initiative,” according to Brian Hall, executive director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion, a program run by the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

In some ways, that is changing.

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