Personal View: Inclusion is good economics
By Bethia Burke, Personal View for Crain’s Cleveland Business
However, Trutko raised one issue I cannot ignore. He asserted, “sustained economic growth is … inherently unequal” and further asserted the project (and presumably the region at large) “should give more attention to creating a bigger economic pie and be less concerned with how the pie is split.” He goes on to argue for the mythical trickle-down approach in which regional success will ultimately accrue to women and minorities, diminishing the vast difference in economic outcomes that exist today.
An inclusive economy — one where access to opportunity is not defined by race or place — is far from being an “unrealistic social objective.” Our region’s economic competitiveness cannot be decoupled from our ability to achieve inclusive economic growth. A series of analyses conducted by and on behalf of the Fund over the past 15 years supports this claim.
Growth does not trickle down; it bubbles up from the sum of an economy’s assets. Included residents provide the labor and ideas that supply the economy, and when financially successful, they create the demand and provide the capital that enables continued success. On the flip side, when large portions of a region’s population are disconnected from jobs, the entire economy suffers, as businesses cannot find workers and people can’t earn a living wage.
Looking ahead, the region faces a meaningful chance for an economic reset, following the pandemic-induced setback.
There is no single, universal measure of economic vibrancy. Society must decide for itself what is success. In The Two Tomorrows, the Fund put forth a vision for the region: a continuously regenerating economy that creates good jobs and rising incomes for everyone. Such a vision is neither fantasy nor a call for social service — it is an attainable goal predicated on sound data, practical experience and a holistic approach to people and businesses. The same report suggests a blueprint for how to get there.
On one point of Trutko’s I quite agree: Reform across all systems — education, criminal justice, health care and so on — is needed to address and undo centuries of racial exclusion. But economic development doesn’t get a pass. The Cleveland Innovation Project must — and can — deliver on its stated objective to strengthen technology-led growth and prosperity for all residents of Greater Cleveland. That’s good economics, and it’s a future of which I’m excited to be a part.