CLEVELAND--Nov. 10, 2014--The Fund for Our Economic Future (the Fund) announced Monday that it has joined the Northeast Ohio business community in supporting an overhaul of our region's economic competitiveness system in an effort to accelerate job growth and outperform the nation's economy.
"Our Fund has been calling for greater alignment between the philanthropic and business sectors since our founding in 2004," said Chair Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. "We are pleased that the business community is sharing responsibility with us for developing and implementing an integrated, sustainable strategy that simultaneously advances economic growth and equitable access to opportunity, and enhances the system's capacity to evaluate those efforts and hold key players accountable for outcomes."
While the Northeast Ohio economy has made meaningful progress in recent years, projections indicate our region will continue to underperform the nation -- costing us hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in income. Research shows that Northeast Ohio has the potential to outperform the national economy if we align our efforts and effectively address our most important priorities.
A months-long review of our region's economic performance by a 15-member steering committee known as the Regional Competitiveness Council (RCC) produced several recommendations for how to increase our effectiveness. The recommendations are:
- Adopt "Go Big" Strategy: Make bigger bets on fewer industry clusters--two or three at most--starting with biomed.
- Amp Up Retention and Expansion: Increase our emphasis on business retention and expansion by touching more companies and executing with more consistency across the region.
- Further Nurture Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Continue and enhance our support of entrepreneurship and innovation services, including support for "scaleups" -- established companies with significant growth potential.
- Get Serious About Talent: Address pressing workforce issues by connecting provider networks with growing industries to align systems around specific employer needs.
In all, more than 100 community members, executives, consultants, and others contributed to the comprehensive strategy, volunteering their time, offering wide-ranging perspectives and providing specialized expertise. As previously announced, this strategy will be implemented by a new organization under the name of Team NEO. Its board will consist of representatives from the business, philanthropic and public sectors across the region.
"This is the product of broad, multi-sector collaboration. Recognizing that higher education is a driving force in economic growth in many ways, I have been delighted to be a part of this regional strategy development," said Dr. Roy Church, president of Fund member Lorain County Community College, who served on the RCC. "A broader alignment will increase our region's ability to improve our economic performance. Our Fund, our business partners and the engaged organizations have agreed to make these changes because we are confident they will better achieve a growing, opportunity-rich economy for the people of Northeast Ohio."
The Fund will hold five of the up-to 20 seats on the board of the new organization. Fund representatives to the Team NEO board include Ms. Hoover; RCC co-Chair Dave Abbott, executive director of The George Gund Foundation; Dr. Alex Johnson, president of Cuyahoga Community College; Bill Seelbach, senior advisor at The Riverside Company and trustee of The George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation; and Mark Samolczyk, president of Stark Community Foundation. Fund President Brad Whitehead will serve as an ex-officio member.