Adrianna is a 30-something mother of two living on the near east side of Cleveland. She works fulltime at a retirement community in Rocky River, a western suburb. She doesn’t have a license, so currently relies on public transportation to get to work. Her roughly 13-mile commute takes an hour and a half, and includes a long walk to a Rapid station, and a transfer. She has trouble making it to work on time if her connecting bus is late, and often ends up walking the last leg of her commute. She says her employer doesn’t offer any assistance to help cover the cost of commuting. Adrianna has an associate’s degree and said last year, her total household income was under $25,000.
Adrianna (we changed her name to protect her privacy) is not a unique case. Thousands of Northeast Ohio’s residents face daunting daily commutes; others are essentially “stranded,” stuck in a cycle of “no car, no job; no job, no car.” Job access is a challenge that not only weighs down our residents, but our businesses, our municipalities, our environment, and ultimately, our ability to compete in a global economy.
The spatial mismatch between people and jobs—in our community and elsewhere around the country—is the result of several decades of outward expansion of where people live, where companies locate, and of the infrastructure required to support these developments. In Northeast Ohio's case, that expansion has occurred while our region’s population and total employment have remained relatively flat.
These development patterns are not just the result of a free market. Decisions about where to allocate business location incentives, how to prioritize land aggregation, and what road, highway, utility, and transit infrastructure upgrades to invest in have been marked by political fragmentation and a lack of regional alignment. With hundreds of governments trying to serve their constituencies in a resource-constrained world, coordination has, understandably, been difficult.
Our Fund has done some work to try and see the picture of our region’s development whole and equip leaders with a tool to help inform and align future decision-making that can lead to more inclusive economic growth. Working closely over the last several months with transportation planning organizations and business development entities in Northeast Ohio, our Fund developed a map of our region’s job hubs—areas with particularly dense traded-sector employment (or jobs in industries that sell their goods and services outside the local market that we know to be the bedrock of economic growth). We also looked at how the number of jobs in each hub has changed over time, what specific industries these jobs are in, and where people who work in each job hub live.
It’s important to note that this map is not definitive; it remains a work in progress as we continue to work with local partners on the ground to refine and validate it. This information is meant to be a starting point to understanding where we should prioritize business expansion, public transportation, workforce services, and other community assets so that we can improve connections of people and jobs.
We invite you to spend some time exploring the job hubs map and analysis at www.jobhubsneo.org. Ultimately, it is our hope that, equipped with this information now and in the future, leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors can make decisions that work for Adrianna, and all of Northeast Ohio’s residents.