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Opportunities and Challenges

By Brad Whitehead, Fund for Our Economic Future, for Community Leader

We have much to celebrate this summer when millions of people will turn their attention to Northeast Ohio for the Republican National Convention. They will be greeted with a refurbished downtown Cleveland, a thriving “eds and meds” job center in University Circle, and inspiring examples of a tech-fueled economy generating new industry opportunities and high-paying jobs.  

However, two recently released reports suggest that all that glitters isn’t gold, that our comeback is far from complete—and never will be until we better connect our legacy urban neighborhoods with the regional economy. 

In late January, the Brookings Institution issued the latest iteration of its “Metro Monitor,” the box score for economic development junkies like me. In it, they compare how metropolitan economies have fared over one-, five-, and 10-year time frames. A first reading of the data provides much encouragement that our long-term economic travails are at last turning the corner.

Usually in a recession, Northeast Ohio is the first to fall, the deepest in, and the one who never quite recovers. This has not been so in the latest business cycle.  

The economic inclusion numbers suggest we have done well; our performance on metrics such as the change in relative poverty and median wage place us in the top 20 percent of metropolitan areas. But if you click through the data and look at economic outcomes by race, you will sober fast: We quickly fall to the bottom of the performance pile. As Brookings analyst Mark Muro has noted, “Too little growth is trickling down” to those who need it most.

Access full column here on pg. 24.