Digital Casserole

WHAT I BELIEVE: I believe in the power of a single idea. A single good idea, anyway. Frankly, there’s just not a lot of power in a single bad idea, like scheduling “Bat Day” when the Red Sox play at Yankee Stadium. I believe in long, slow downloads that last 3 days. I believe in the designated driver, the fungo bat, and keeping words like gazebo and zamboni around just because they’re fun to say. I believe in naps but not Napster.(more..)

Location: Strongsville, OH, United States

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Vision of Cleveland in 2020

I Hate Vision Statements! There, I said it. In fact, I hate the very notion that someone -- anyone -- would have the audacity to conclude that they alone hold the answer, that to them exclusively this mystery has been revealed, that a single individual has been uniquely inspired and therefore ordained as the messenger to proclaim this great truth. And furthermore, anyone who would presume to do this would -- in doing so -- disqualify and discredit both the message and the messenger. HOWEVER, the only thing I hate MORE than a Vision Statement... is having no Vision at all. What follows, therefore, is a compromise. While not espousing the naiveté to claim that the answer can be known, or indeed that the Vision for an entire city can be neatly wrapped and packaged into a single summarizing soundbite and billboard-worthy slogan, I would nevertheless like to propose a living, breathing, strategic, regional roadmap -- A Cleveland Constitution, if you will -- A Vision of Cleveland in 2020.

Just as the Constitution of the United States provides the framework for the organization of the U.S. Government, so this Cleveland Constitution offers a framework for the organization of all of the assets, infrastructure, policies and priorities, culture and competition, arts and architecture, recreation and legislation, capital and collective psyche to proactively and holistically position our city in the most synergistic and complementary way possible – effectively taking all of our “Centers of Excellence” and all of our “Points of Light” and strategically connecting and arranging them to form a beautiful, visible, world-class constellation.

And just as America’s Constitution played an integral role in determining the destiny of our nation, so to our Cleveland Constitution in establishing a shared consensus on our destination. For you see, 2020 is not simply a measure of chronological time, it is also a place, a hope, a rallying cry and a bond, but mostly an arrival – an arrival at a destination that we as a city set out to reach based on the clarity of a shared Vision, a collective objective, or as they say around here during the NBA playoffs – “One Goal.”

Wii The People...

The greatest challenge with Visions is that they must necessarily originate and flow from flawed, fallen people, and whether a single person or the unclean masses, all people – in part or in total – suffer from some form of blurred vision. Either they are nearsighted, and so focused on the minute details of a single issue that they miss how their piece jigsaws its way into the bigger puzzle, OR they suffer from farsightedness, wherein their perspective is so big, broad, vast, and vague that it isn’t actionable or practical when faced with “feet on the street” reality. (Or, you have politicians, who seem to have a permanent case of “double vision” – intermittently combining the worst of both traits). Knowing this, and in full recognition of this phenomenon, the goal of this Cleveland Constitution will be to exercise the totality of our peripheral vision – internalizing and digesting all of the available data, documents, dynamics, and trends – and then, with eyes wide open, assert a single, cohesive, integrated, and compelling Vision.

Will this Vision be the “End all, be all?” Of course not, but it should serve as a starting point. By making a grand assertion (which is all a Vision really is), we introduce a logical and informed premise, a validated and substantiated argument, designed to spawn dialogue and debate, but now within the context of a larger narrative. Just as an airplane flying from L.A. to Honolulu is off course as much as 97% of the time, and it takes hundreds of real-time micro-adjustments to reach the destination, so it is with this Vision exercise – in fact, I’m counting on it. And just as the Nintendo Wii got people off the couch and involved in the game, so it will be with this Vision exercise, as we rely on the input from multiple participants to navigate and make the micro-adjustments necessary along the way.

Ultimately, the most important outcome of this Vision exercise is this – that we finally define and agree on our final destination, and ensure that we don’t miss our Forest City for the trees.

We Are All Witnesses

As I write this, the Cleveland Cavaliers are immersed in the NBA playoffs - having just completed the most successful season in the history of the franchise. The timing couldn’t be more ideal, as the success, composition, and recipe for the Cavaliers’ success this year is the perfect metaphor, the perfect illustration of the philosophy and approach we need to embrace to succeed in 2020.

Simply put, LeBron James = Cleveland, and Cleveland = LeBron James. Allow me to explain.

The Cavaliers best player is LeBron James. He is the name and face (and billboard) of the franchise. Because of LeBron, the Cavs clinched their division, conference, and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Because of LeBron, the Cavs have had more national primetime exposure than ever before. Because of LeBron, "the Q" had more sellouts, sold more products, and poured more drinks than in any season in history. Sure, LeBron gets a lot of attention, but here’s where it gets interesting:

Because of LeBron, Cavaliers’ teammate Mo Williams had a banner year, averaging more points than any other season of his career. And because of LeBron, Andersen Varejao also posted some career bests this year. What’s interesting is that, even though LeBron is the name, face, and personality of the Cavs, his teammates ALSO benefited from this notoriety because he regularly commanded double and triple-teams, freeing up other players to hit open shots and contribute to their victories. And speaking of victories, it’s because of their league-leading number of wins that LeBron was the odds-on favorite to be selected MVP this year. [Congrats are certainly in order there].

In short, the Cavs have succeeded in creating a Win-Win situation by establishing a game plan, creating a hierarchy, and getting buy-in from all of the participants. LeBron’s greatness has created a “halo effect” on his team, the franchise, the city, and even the state - where everyone in the entire food chain benefits. LeBron needs his teammates to succeed, and his teammates need him to succeed, and you can tell this isn’t just superstar “lip-service” because the wins, stats, and team chemistry prove this to be true.

And here’s the best part: even with all of his stardom and individual accolades, LeBron still has the humility to submit himself to his coach and to his teammates, and the perspective to keep his eye on the ultimate goal, as he noted in the Plain Dealer on 4/15/09, “We have to do what’s best for the ring... If Mike wants to rest some of the big guys, myself, I’m going to sit out Wednesday – I’m all for that because in the playoffs, you’ve got to be fresh.”

I admire LeBron because it appears that he truly “gets it” – it’s all about winning the championship, it’s all about getting the ring, and his actions fully support his words.

If we dare to dream and realize a desirable outcome in 2020, we all need to be like LeBron. The reason this white paper is entitled, “A Vision for Cleveland in 2020” is because Cleveland is the key. Cleveland is our LeBron. Cleveland is the region’s best player. Cleveland is the name, face, and billboard of the region.

Cleveland has the most people, the most attractions, and the most assets. We don’t go to watch the "NEO Cavaliers," we watch the Cleveland Cavaliers. And just like LeBron needs his teammates to succeed, Cleveland needs all of NEO’s assets to be contributing and working in harmony and collaboration with one another to succeed. The more we build up the profile and reputation of Cleveland, the more rewarding will be the halo effect on all of the 16 surrounding counties.

The creators of the “Cleveland Plus” initiative clearly get this concept, but this perspective must be universally embraced by ALL of the region’s stakeholders – emphatically, authentically, and without apology. Just as the prolific Cavaliers offense runs through LeBron, Northeast Ohio’s success or failure, our destiny as a region, runs right through Cleveland.

Brass Tacks

Business executives will often transition a meeting by saying it’s time to get down to “Brass Tacks,” an idiom which in the colloquial means, “To get past the formalities and get down to the crux of the matter,” so here goes:

Cleveland has spent the last decade developing what I call “Silos of Excellence” – individual industries, initiatives, and inventions – passionately focused on creating a “Best of Breed” experience within their discrete jurisdiction and area of expertise. These Silos of Excellence have been meticulously planted, nurtured, and curated - often from humble grassroots beginnings - and now stand poised for a full-fledged, all-out, 10-year push onto the world stage.

If we take the right steps NOW, this world-class visibility will have us poised for Prime Time and ready for our “Cleveland Close-Up” in 2020.

HOWEVER, the ONLY way Cleveland will be able to capture, command, and sustain worldwide interest is if we take purposeful, calculated steps NOW to take these Islands of Excellence and organize them, integrate them, combine them, and then package them under a single brand umbrella.

(If the fragmentation of major media has taught us anything, it’s that society is being bombarded with too many messages from too many sources – we’re drowning from information overload – and people now no longer have the patience or bandwidth to entertain multiple idea streams).

Therefore, we must come together – once and for all – and recognize that, just as CLEVELAND is the focal point of our region, MEDICAL is the central core tenant of our brand – for it is the density of our advanced MEDICAL expertise that offers the singular, localized asset that truly distinguishes Cleveland, and sets us apart from the rest of the state, the rest of the country, and the rest of the world.

Name any profile city, and you can quickly see what I mean: Nashville (Country Music), New Orleans (Jazz), Las Vegas (Gambling), and the list goes on. Sure, each of these cities has great restaurants, libraries, schools, and museums, BUT outsiders would seldom experience ANY of these other attractions if they weren’t first drawn to the area by a single “Signature” - a unique and compelling brand message and reputation for being world class in one specific area.

To repeat, it is only when we get people “close enough” to Cleveland that they will finally be able to see the vast portfolio of the many OTHER distinguishing regional assets that we offer.

As an obscure writer once observed, “The best brand is not something you create, it’s something you uncover.” I am delighted that the collective intelligencia has correctly identified and “uncovered” the preponderance of medical assets and related core competencies resident within the greater Cleveland area, and that they are actively positioning these as the centerpiece of our 10-year image makeover.

I am also particularly glad that the word “Medical” was selected, as it requires this “Big Tent” syntax to fully recognize the complete continuum of this brand message including: health care, medical products, bioscience, biomedical, and even biotech initiatives. Not only does “Medical” represent an increasingly large and lucrative industry, but it also possesses inherent “Recession and Outsourcing Resistant” qualities, leverages education, technology, and a high density of knowledge workers, pays above average wages, and is ideally positioned for the “Aging of America” and the national health care overhaul slated for our immediate future.

Introducing our “Cleveland Dream Team”

So, to review, Cleveland is “The Land,” Medical is “The Brand,” but if we’re going to make this truly work, it’s going to take a village - a Bay Village, Coventry Village, Legacy Village, and Slavic Village - and from these villages we are going to create and organize a team, our own “Cleveland Dream Team,” a collection of leaders – one from each of our Silos of Excellence – brought together to form a single, unified team with One Goal – realizing our Vision for Cleveland in 2020.

Like the Cavaliers, Cleveland has spent the last few years assembling all of the “pieces” and finally has in place the talent, timing, technology, and now the Vision to enable us to achieve our desirable future, BUT six important steps still remain.

First, we need to recognize these individual members of our Dream Team and collectively celebrate their unique and ongoing contributions to our city.

Second, we need to introduce them to each other, as peers, as confidantes, and as trusted teammates. I’m sure many have already met or been brought together by happenstance, but this time their meeting carries a greater purpose and responsibility.

Third, we must let them know that we are both relying on them to help realize a better future for Cleveland AND that we are actually LISTENING to what they say and the recommendations they make. Fourth, we need to formally organize this Dream Team and establish this group as a visible, viable forum and directional “voice” of Cleveland.

Let’s face it, by 2020, all of our current local and national political leaders will be history, so relying on “The Government” isn’t the answer. (Plus, the last time I checked, “Government” isn’t a viable business model or compelling value proposition…unless you live in D.C.).

Fifth, once assembled, we need to borrow a strategy from the sports industry and designate each member of this Dream Team as a “Franchise Player,” lock each of them into a 10-Year contract with Cleveland, and then incent them by offering them real or symbolic “ownership stock” in the city – some kind of percentage stake in the growth and success of Cleveland. Scores of financial institutions are now bankrupt because their leaders were incented to take on risky investments for short term rewards. By locking this Dream Team into a 10-Year commitment, they will be encouraged to pursue long-term value and real sustainable growth, and also to invest some of their own “skin” into the mix, for the prospect of benefiting from the upside of the outcome. This way, when THEY win, WE win! (Or, to put it another way, THEY WON’T win unless WE WIN TOO).

Sixth, the agreements for each of these Franchise Players will be written to include a “Love of the Game” clause, stating that they can pollinate and participate in any other regional, national, and international endeavors they desire which could be instrumental in returning value back to Cleveland. And finally, we – as a City – need to promise to get out of the way! This Dream Team was selected for a reason – they are accomplished individuals, seasoned veterans, and leaders within their unique domain and specialty areas who, if permitted and supported, have the demonstrated guts and gravitas to lead us in realizing our Vision for Cleveland in 2020. So without further delay, I present to you, the members of our Cleveland Dream Team:

Franchise Players: The Roster

(Insert Cavs PA announcer Oliver Sedra’s voice here): “And now, direct from McKinsey, a 6 foot forward from Boston, sporting an Economics degree from Harvard, a Master’s from Kennedy School of Government, and with a head as big as his heart, give it up for Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad WHITEhead!”

I have chosen to lead off our Dream Team with Brad Whitehead, President of the Fund for our Economic Future, because let’s face it, without an ECONOMIC future there IS NO FUTURE for Cleveland! Brad serves as President of what may very well be the single most influential “engine of growth” in the region. After spending 20 years with McKinsey, Brad joined The Cleveland Foundation in 2002 before transitioning to become the Fund’s first President in 2006.

In less than three years, Brad has managed to organize and corral the majority of Cleveland’s generous philanthropic community - not to mention a significant portion of business development, job growth, inclusion, and educational players - under a single umbrella organization. Praised as an “innovative model” committed to focusing on “things that matter,” the Fund represents a collaboration of influential philanthropic entities with over $6 BILLION in assets all unified in asking, “What can we do collectively to improve Northeast Ohio?” Launched in 2004, the Fund is now the largest philanthropic organization of its kind in the U.S. and currently has over 60 members, including businesses, foundations, and other organizations focusing on 1. Business Growth and Attraction 2. Talent Development 3. Racial and Economic Inclusion, and 4. Government Collaboration and Efficiency.

Rather than waiting for a stimulus package from Washington, Brad is leveraging the $6B made available from this community, (plus national “Best Practices” gleaned from leading economists, along with input from over 20,000 local citizens via “Voices and Choices”), to package the Fund as a “Cleveland Kiosk” – a one-stop shop which finally connects all the dots for expediting economic growth. Five years ago, when an entrepreneur with an idea wanted to launch a business around Cleveland, they would spin their wheels driving the length of the city to locate and explore all of the components required for start up. Because of the Fund, the efforts of JumpStart, MAGNET, NorTech, Team NEO, BioEnterprise, NEO Inc., Education Works, the Minority Business Accelerator and GLIDE are increasingly moving towards an integrated and collaborative model, enabling this same entrepreneur TODAY with a much more streamlined and efficient system for connecting with strategic assistance, loans, grants, venture capital, office space, and talent to incubate an idea from embryo to IPO.

Through his leadership position at the Fund, Brad has the academic will and the economic clout to organize $6 BILLION dollars and focus it like a laser to, “Increase growth and reduce poverty,” and has already taken bold steps through the Fund’s innovative “Regional Talent Network” to address BOTH of these issues by proactively connecting the educational community directly with employers to ensure students are graduating with the specialized skills required by hiring companies and are aligned with businesses in industries which are expanding versus contracting. Further proof of the growing impact of the Fund’s “Advance Northeast Ohio” initiatives was the recent citizen submission of over 60 ideas for their “Efficient Government” challenge, of which 3 will be selected and $300,000 distributed to launch these projects to further streamline government efforts within the region.

Because of the impact that $6 BILLION can have on our region, I’m going to designate Brad as our economic “LeBron,” so from now on - “We Are All Whiteheads,” - but just like the Cavs, the Fund can’t do it alone. However, if the “Cleveland Kiosk” organizational model architected by the Fund can be used as a template and communicated to our other industries and sectors, this alone would be worth the time and effort required to assemble this Dream Team.

The Man in the Middle of Medical

As discussed earlier, the cornerstone brand of Cleveland is Medical, so with the game on the line, there is nobody else I would trust more with the ball than Squire Sanders & Dempsey’s regional managing partner, Fred Nance.

For the past two decades, Fred has been the go-to guy for nearly every Cleveland civic project, having served as Chairman of the Board for the 16,000-member Greater Cleveland Partnership, and was nearly selected as Commissioner of the NFL. Frankly, I’m glad the NFL didn’t get him, because he’s going to be the Point Guard on our Dream Team and one of our franchise players for four reasons.

First, he already knows everybody, having been identified as both Cleveland’s “Most Influential Person” and also as the “#1 Most Powerful Person” by various magazines. Second, not only does he know everybody, but according to Squire Sanders & Dempsey’s Chairman Tom Stanton, “People trust him.” (Plus, he’s the legal representative and provides counsel to LeBron James, and it looks like he turned out okay). Third, he is already spearheading ongoing talks to develop the new convention center and Medical Mart in downtown Cleveland, and serves as the chair of the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Site Selection Committee.

And finally, he thinks BIG, as evidenced by his 4/15/09 Plain Dealer proclamation, “We want to be the health care capital of the world!”

Let’s face it, with his success, Fred could have packed it in years ago and headed to any number of tropical island destinations to relax in comfort. But he’s still here, which is why I want to lock him into a 10-year deal NOW before he leaves or the NFL calls again. Cleveland desperately needs someone with Fred’s combination of vision, power, and audacity to marshal the resources and build consensus among the assets, egos, and silos of our established world-class medical community. Fred brings the gravitas to talk to doctors and lawyers, and his experience as a trial lawyer can’t hurt when it comes to negotiating with politicians and unions to unite for the greater good. And finally, if we can get Fred to agree to a 10-year deal, perhaps he can convince LeBron to sign one, too. And speaking of LeBron…

Quicken Lake

I would like to officially announce the addition of Dan Gilbert to our “Cleveland Dream Team” EVEN THOUGH he is from Detroit, in fact, BECAUSE he is from Detroit. Dan brings to our Dream Team the finesse of a consummate businessman, and because he isn’t a local, he doesn’t carry the pessimism and emotional baggage that decades of disappointment can cause.

Instead, he brings the clear-thinking perspective of ROI, revenue, and run rates, evaluating the Cleveland landscape like an M&A firm considers an equity play, and always with an eye on the bottom line.

Four years ago, Dan Gilbert (Chairman and Founder of the nations’ largest online home lender Quicken Loans) led an investment group in purchasing the Cavaliers from Gordon Gund declaring, “41 years is a long long time to wait for a championship. We will be committed to the fans of Cleveland sports to be as passionate and energized as they are about finally bringing a title home. This will be our focus and goal and will remain so as long as we own this team. Our background is building winning teams in the business world. Our philosophy centers around two things: creating an environment and culture where our entire team can achieve their maximum potential and delivering a 'world class' experience to our clients, or in this case, our fans. We plan to bring this same philosophy to the Cavaliers organization. Every detail and every second counts and 'execution' will be the name of the game at every level and in every corner of the organization.”

Well, four years later, the entire Cavs organization appears to have fully embraced this philosophy, and from the front office to the back office, from the front court to the back court, and from Daniel Gilbert to Daniel Gibson, a singleness of purpose and focus on “One Goal” has already made the entire franchise “Winners” regardless of the postseason outcome.

The biggest reason we need Dan on our Dream Team is because we need his passion, excellence, and focus on “One Goal” to permeate our city and culture, and we need it to start with the critical Medical Mart decision.

The bottom line is that we NEED the Medical Mart and Convention Center, but the choice of location is like the difference between Larry Hughes and Mo Williams! The reason we NEED the Medical Mart is because: 1. It gets 5,000 to 25,000 new, employed, expense-accounted people spending downtown every week, 2. These people need restaurants, hotels, outlet shopping (Galleria), entertainment (Playhouse Square, Indians), and flights (Hopkins, Akron), 3. Our Medical assets are already established and world-class, Cleveland has already been voted, “Best city for business meetings in the continental U.S.,” and even site selector Kate McEnroe in the Plain Dealer noted about Cleveland, “Biomedical is already a strength - fifty out of 50 states are making a play for bioscience business - here it’s real.” So clearly even outsiders can see our brand strength and core competency in this area.

Critical Mass or Critical Mess?

Dan Gilbert recently launched an impassioned appeal via the media to help Cleveland avoid a repeat of the “Detroit Disaster” (and no, it’s not Rasheed Wallace) by urging leadership to select the Tower City site as the location for the Medical Mart. In a nutshell, his point was that we need to establish “critical mass” or we have a “critical mess;” either we aggregate our assets and cluster them together like hot coals around a central core, or we scatter those assets, lose that sense and vibe of connectivity, and repeat Detroit’s debacle.

Furthermore, Gilbert and others note that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity, with the will, backing, and over $900M in taxpayer money, to create a signature architectural masterpiece, on the bank of the Cuyahoga River – a beautiful skyline that ESPN would pan over before every Cavs, Indians, and Browns home game – and we are willing to give this up because, “The ceilings aren’t high enough,” or because, “An underground site offers natural insulation?” A Cleveland developer (who shall go nameless) summed up the misguided thinking on this decision recently in the Plain Dealer saying, “You cater to the tenant in these things. MMPI is the tenant, and the tenant wants to build at the mall site, so that’s what you do.”

This is where Dan Gilbert gets it – you don’t cater to the tenant, you cater to the CUSTOMER! The customer is the person who just flew in for a convention, stepped off the shuttle at their hotel, and doesn’t know Public Circle from University Square, but DOES need to know where the convention center is and where to find a good Italian restaurant. Plus, in case you haven’t noticed, from November to March, cool Cleveland is cold and not a fun town to be walking around in, so visitors that have to be outside are praying for one thing: PROXIMITY!

A Tower City location provides the ability to concentrate most of Cleveland’s hospitality assets into a single WALKABLE complex and finally create that elusive “sense of place.” Because Gilbert could potentially benefit from the selection of the Tower City site, his comments are being dismissed as self serving, but folks – on this issue he is 100% right, and I’ll bet Dan would even throw some extra skin into the game – to compensate Cleveland for any value he might receive – to ensure the correct decision is made.

The 6th City Needs a 6th Sense

The final reason we need Dan Gilbert on our Dream Team is because he’s a marketing genius, and what Cleveland needs more than anything is an image makeover and some kind of a marketing 6th sense, but I’m not exactly sure what sense it is. A sense of pride? A sense of humor? A sense of urgency? Or just some plain old common sense. In many ways, Cleveland is truly a bi-polar city. Residents seem to have a built-in inferiority complex (I mean, we don’t even aspire to be #1 – we’re content to be the 6th City) yet we don’t seem to have any fear of heights (Shaker Heights, Parma Heights, Middleburg Heights, University Heights…).

And what about our legacy namesakes? The Mistake by the Lake, Burning River, or even Lake Erie? I mean, Michigan gets Lake “Superior” and we get Lake “Erie?” With Dan on board, I’ll bet he could figure out a way to sell naming rights and generate additional revenue for the region. How about Lake Lubrizol? Progressive Port? Health Care Coast? A Food Court in the Eaton District? Parker Port? Sherwin Shoreway? Quicken Lake? West Lake? Metro Lake? Strick Lake? Or even rebranding our primary waterway, “The Learning River.” Plus, if we should ever need some extra cash along the way, as Chairman of Quicken Loans, I’ll bet he could give us some pretty good terms.

We Are All Wasserman’s

What do IMPORT and EXPORT have in common? They’re nothing without the PORT. Since we drafted our new Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority CEO as a free agent out of England two years ago, Adam Wasserman has put the PORT back in imPORTant – especially when it comes to leveraging this unique asset to stimulate additional economic activity – which is why he has been selected for our Cleveland Dream Team. (That, and the fact that his name Wasserman translates to “Waterman” in Yiddish). Clearly, Adam is the right man for the job, as he has already succeeded in putting the Authority back in Port Authority, with his unveiling of a visionary and strategic 25-year Plan for Cleveland’s port within months of taking over the reigns, leveraging all of his Maritime, Finance, Strategic Development, Regional Economic Advancement, and Administration resources.

Like Gilbert, Adam Wasserman is a “newcomer” and is therefore untethered in envisioning what the Port of Cleveland COULD be, rather than what it was, or is today. To him, our checkered past is just water under the bridge. The Port of Cleveland averages over 13 million tons of cargo per year, while generating more than $570 million in personal incomes through thousands of jobs supported by Port Authority activities. Adam’s 25-year Plan calls for $2 Billion of new development and 50,000 new jobs, facilitating the completion of the Trans-Erie ferry service, and ultimately becoming a bigger player in both the Great Lakes and global trade. Adam is on our Dream Team because he thinks BIG and because he truly gets it.

“Many ports consider themselves transportation terminals,” he said during a recent interview, “We consider ourselves part of the economic development structure,” as evidenced by his desire to create a 1,000 acre “International Trade District” stretching across the St.Clair-Superior neighborhood. To show he’s serious, the Port Authority has just selected the firm that designed the award-winning master plan for Battery Park in NYC to develop a master plan for the redevelopment of the Port’s current downtown Cleveland facilities. Adam’s vision is a true game changer, as relocating the current port would both expand shipping and tonnage capabilities while freeing the Port’s lakefront land for attractive, close-in, and scenic mixed-use development.

If Adam is already discussing a 25-year plan, it appears he’s expecting to be around until at least 2020, so why not lock him in as a Franchise Player for at least the next 10 years. Like Gilbert and the Cavs, Wasserman has spent the last few years assembling his team (having recently selected top notch managers of real estate, logistics, and environmental compliance) and now, as he recently noted in an interview, “I think we can start doing the action part.”

Cleveland: We Put the City in Authenticity

Cleveland is Old School. Hardscrabble. No excuses. We’ve had tough times before and we’ve made it through. We’re a survivor. We’re like John Travolta who was cool, then uncool, then rediscovered as cool again. Heck, we’re the Come-Back City. In a world of wannabees and airbrushed perfection, we’re real, gritty. Sometimes it snows. Sometimes life ain’t pretty. But we’re resilient, and most of all, we’re authentic.

Do you know how many cities would drool over our historic downtown buildings? The Hanna and the Higbee. Terminal Tower. Some architects build and then artificially age buildings and frescos to give them that weathered, old school, throwback feel. We’ve got it naturally. Cleveland is the embodiment of authenticity, and Cleveland IS Rock and Roll, which is why it was the natural choice for the Hall of Fame, and not just the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as destination, but as a cultural symbol, an icon, a touchstone.

With the simple addition of the letter “T,” the Rust Belt becomes the “Trust Belt” – where Midwestern sensibilities and authenticity are celebrated and showcased. Rather than try to hide our past, we should embrace it, revel in it, own it. And then, when we get to 2020, we’ll still know who we are – we are the genuine article, we are Made in America, we ARE authenticity. And speaking of authenticity...

Making Cleveland Cool Again

No Cleveland Dream Team would be complete without some personality, and since nobody embodies the hip, scrappy, authentic vibe of Cleveland better than the effortlessly cool Thomas Mulready, I have decided to recruit him as our final Franchise Player. Schooled in the history of Cleveland by a mother who squired royalty around on private guided tours back in the 60’s, Thomas can list every interesting nook and cranny in his beloved city (not to mention every interesting poet, painter, politician, and personality as well).

Mulready put the ROOTS in grassroots when he took his love and knowledge of all things Cleveland and began a personal crusade back in 2002 to showcase the many cool and unique things to do in our city. What started out as an email sent to visiting Cirque de Soliel performers listing indigenous activities and local hot spots has since exploded into an electronic newsletter publication blasted FREE to over 80,000 loyal, local subscribers each week.

As Founder of Cool Networks and creator of their flagship newsletter, Thomas effectively serves as Cleveland’s personal “concierge service,” researching and recommending the coolest of the cool activities, shows, and events going on every week of the year and providing this information free as a public service to the community. A consummate citizen journalist and drummer for his own band “Cats on Holiday,” Mulready has his finger on both the pulse of the people and the backbeat of business, having performed hundreds of one-on-one interviews with everyone from Dan Gilbert to Daryl D.M.C. McDaniels, and now runs a multimedia empire utilizing blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, e-blasts, and now Twitter to promote economic development, arts, culture, and technology around Cleveland.

Frankly, Thomas NEEDS to be on the team, because what’s the point in having a city if it’s not gonna be cool? With his ear to the ground and nose to the grindstone, Thomas’ cultural and artistic sensitivities will ensure that whatever the Dream Team does will resonate with the people, places, and personality of Cleveland, and after launching both the Performance Arts Festival and Ingenuity Festival of Art and Technology, he has already established himself as a cultural visionary and civic ambassador, and uniquely qualified to serve as our “Cleveland Curator.”

Plus, if we lock Thomas into a 10-year contract, we may also get him to throw in his son Max, who is already writing, interviewing, and podcasting Cool Cleveland events especially for kids, and perhaps both of them could work with developers to create our own “Cool Corridor” populated with the hippest clubs, companies, and canteens in the city.

Introducing: Our Reserves

I’ve just profiled our Cleveland Dream Team’s starting rotation, but just like the Cavs, the team can’t be successful unless they are surrounded, augmented, and buttressed by supporting personalities and role players. Here, then, are our Cleveland Dream Team Reserves:

Design District

Daniel Cuffaro and Ned Hill (they’re a package deal) set out over five years ago to leverage Cleveland’s unique density of consumer product and industrial design firms to unveil a bold vision of creating and marketing the Design District, a complex of design showrooms and studios in downtown Cleveland. After Ned’s Cleveland State University urban-planning students found more than 100 existing design-related firms within a 20-block area, the site selection along Euclid Avenue was finalized, and now an incredible supply chain of design and photography studios, printing, fabrication, and architecture firms are being organized and branded to create our own “Milan of the Midwest.”

Offering a perfect One-Two punch, Dan (Design) and Ned (District) intrinsically understand that our region is, “Really good at building stuff,” and have succeeded in combining artistic and academic pursuits and directly connecting educational institutions with employment opportunities right here in Cleveland. There’s a good chance these guys are going to be in a Harvard Business School “Innovative Thinking” Case Study before 2020, which is why I want to draft them NOW while they’re still affordable.

Everybody Loves Raymond

Cleveland Public Theatre Executive Artist Raymond Bobgan was just selected by American Theatre Magazine as one of the 25 theatre artists who are working to shape the next 25 years of theatre in America. Again, if he’s going to be shaping the next 25 years of theatre, why not at least sign him to a 10-year deal to keep him here in Cleveland. While responsibility for the artistic direction of the largest theatre district West of the Hudson carries a mountain of expectations, it sounds like Raymond’s passion for performance is up to the challenge, as evidenced by the recent distillation of his vision stating, “If we make well-crafted plays that express the essence of what it is to be human, then theatre will have a future, because this kind of theatre can result in a singular, extraordinary transmission that cannot be sent through the Internet, conveyed by text message, experienced remotely or projected on a screen. It is a deeply personal moment where true magic exists.” Leave it to Raymond to bring some much needed magic back to Cleveland.

The Cleveland Dream Team also has some openings to help fill out our squad:

WANTED: A Green Guru

Our Cleveland Dream Team will be incomplete unless we have a Green Guru. Alternative energy, sustainable energy, renewable energy, Earth friendly, solar panels, wind farms, and recycling ALL fall under this green umbrella and we need a visionary guru to do what Brad did with the Fund and organize and strategize how these exploding new sources of energy and economic growth can be organized and optimized over the next 10 years. Believe it or not, Ohio already has the greatest concentration of applied fuel cell technology in the world, and the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition via the Fuel Cell Corridor is organizing and marshalling resources to further cluster this intellectual property and solidify our leading role in this area, and the same efforts must be applied to other renewable energy “silos” and combined with a master vision for all things green in Cleveland. Pursuing these new energy paradigms leverages our established manufacturing base, puts people back to work, and lets us keep our head start on exploring and quickly commercializing these product streams.

WANTED: A Doctor

Every professional sports program has a “Team Doctor,” so one position on our Cleveland Dream Team has been reserved for a physician, preferably a brain surgeon, as they must be well-versed in applying a preventative tourniquet for turning our turn-of-the-century “Brain Drain” into a 2020 “Brain Trust.” Specifically, we are seeking the most visionary, outspoken, strategic thinker in the health care domain - someone who knows an EMR from an EKG and with a passion for improving outcomes - to help craft and realize our audacious 10-year goal of branding Cleveland as the “Health Care Capital of the World.”

Ultimately, the team should include additional specialists in manufacturing, music, inclusion and diversity, education, transportation, etc…, but this should get us started. And now for a few closing thoughts:

Why 2020?

Contrary to popular belief, 20/20 does not indicate “perfect vision,” but rather “the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance,” which is what this exercise is designed to achieve. In addition, 2020 is over 10 years away. This plan is not predicated on polls, pundits, instant gratification or knee-jerk reactions. It’s strategic, it’s cerebral, it’s purposeful, and most importantly, it’s ATTAINABLE!

Eagles Don’t Flock

Why organize a Cleveland Dream Team? Because Eagles Don’t Flock. The enclosed leaders have the proven vision and passion to make it happen, PLUS the ability to attract others to their cause. Creating this Cleveland Dream Team provides these veterans not only with the opportunity to collaborate and work as a team for the betterment of Cleveland, but most importantly to build TRUST.

On 4/21/09, Cavaliers Head Coach and NBA Coach of the Year Mike Brown noted in USA Today, “This is our fourth year together... The biggest thing this year was finding that elusive word chemistry among a group of individuals to try and reach one goal. Our goal has not changed, but the thing that we felt would help define chemistry is trust. They have shown tremendous trust in one another.”

And again in a 4/18/09 Plain Dealer article we read, “Trust. One word to define the season. After a team dinner the night before training camp began, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown delivered a vital message to his players. Brown told his players he believed trust -- trusting every teammate, trusting every coach, trusting all of the team's systems -- would carry the Cavaliers through the long season. Trust became a season-long theme, from players choosing to spend more time together during free time, to Brown delegating more roles to his assistants, to creating 'The Committee', a group of four veteran players who served as consultants to Brown on an array of his decisions. Brown's mantra led the Cavs to a record-setting regular season and the top seed in the NBA playoffs.”

This Dream Team is designed to effectively serve as our own Cleveland Committee – a group of veterans collaborating to make sure all of our assets are working together to realize our shared Vision of Cleveland in 2020. This team has the experience to ask and answer the tough questions like, “What is the role of the urban core in a post-Industrial Revolution economy defined by an anywhere, anytime, knowledge-based workforce?” and have the requisite trust and teamwork required to explore the answers honestly, completely, and with integrity.

Why So Many Cleveland Cavalier References?

With their playoff run featured on nearly every local newspaper and TV broadcast, it’s hard to miss the Cavs, as their successful seasonal campaign and contagious fan support reaches a fever pitch here in the post-season. Ironically, however, this fleeting, top-of-mind frenzy is merely secondary in importance, as the Cavs demonstration of mutual trust and singleness of mind is much more compelling for instructive purposes.

Let’s face it, many sports figures don’t enjoy great reputations, historically serving more as a cautionary tale than a hero to emulate. Steroids, gambling, cheating, addiction, dog fighting, and violence seems to be the “I am not a role model” [thanks Charles Barkley] norm. We’ve become accustomed to stars flaunting their fame and fortune, and the ubiquitous “Me First” attitude that comes with it.

During their unprecedented season this year, however, the Cavs have instead shown us as a city what it takes to create a winning culture by putting egos, attitudes, and agendas aside and uniting under One Goal - how’s that for a reversal? By first creating a culture of trust, the team was then able to explore and maximize the value and contributions of each person, and once each individual understood that they were respected and valued, they were then empowered to perform to their potential in the specific role best suited for their unique talents and abilities.

This, in a nutshell, is my Vision for Cleveland in 2020: An authentic city, predicated on trust, which understands, respects, and maximizes the skills, abilities, and core competencies unique to this 16-county region and then uniting all of these assets under a single Vision. Yes, Cleveland is the star attraction, and Medical is the lead brand message, but “Cleveland” and “Medical” can’t be successful alone.

We need polymer from Akron, friction management from Canton, aerospace from NASA, the Warehouse District, Quadrangle, Flats, and Gateway all working as a team to move this region forward. Imagine the Design District and Euclid Corridor completed – the orange barrels gone for good – with outlet stores in the historic arcades between Superior and Prospect, the stunning Medical Mart and Convention Center complete, the hotel and restaurant business thriving, the Playhouse District and Art community pulsating with performances, the port relocated and thriving, the health care and medical community driving our worldwide brand, downtown real estate snapped up by international medical firms looking for space, Green initiatives abounding, an organized and integrated investment, business, and academic community, a revitalized waterfront, and a truly collaborative and newly efficient government realizing economies of scale and enabling growth.

If we are able to create a culture of trust, we can successfully advance our lead stories of “Cleveland” and “Medical” with the full knowledge that the Halo Effect of these initiatives will benenfit ALL of the other signature events and unique qualities of our region. For example, the 33rd Annual Cleveland International Film Festival, which just reported a record-breaking year with attendance surpassing 66,000 fans who flocked downtown to watch movies – and all of this during the worst economic downturn in 70 years! Or, Ray’s Indoor Biking Park – the first of its kind in the world – or literally HUNDREDS of other cool, unique, and hip groups, events, and communities who call Cleveland home. I truly believe that the Plain Dealer and other media outlets are begging to print good news, affirming stories, and strategies which positively portray the potential of Cleveland – if we just give them a chance.

Look, if a handful of guys named Wally, Sasha, Mo, Zydrunas, LeBron, and Joe the Power Forward can get along, why can’t the rest of us?

If privileged millionaire superstars can put aside their ego and agenda and unite in the pursuit of that “One Goal,” then why can’t we? Really. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get the chalk flying and if we lose, we lose, but at least we didn’t beat ourselves this time!

Final Thoughts

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “In a system where no external forces are present, every action force is always opposed by an equal and opposite reaction. You will note that this Vision has been authored anonymously – that is by design, for if it were attributed to a specific person or organization, I fear it would inevitably be “Opposed by an equal and opposite reaction,” lose its momentum, and result in yet another systemic stalemate. To be truthful, this Vision has been created by yet another newcomer to Cleveland, someone outside of political and corporate influence - someone “off the grid” if you will - and void of any clandestine or secretly held agenda.

I’m not elected, so you can’t impeach me. I’m not hired, so you can’t fire me. And no, I don’t own any stock or interest in any idea or strategy advanced in this document. The objective of this entire exercise has been to lay out a bold and galvanizing ideal of how – given our legacy assets and those currently in process – Cleveland could once again return to its rightful place as a city of prominence, and once again realize our city’s motto of “Progress and Prosperity.”

I would like to close with a simple linguistic metaphor. The verb “Cleave,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is truly a unique word, in that it simultaneously possesses two completely different and antagonistic definitions. To “cleave” means both “To part, split, separate, sever, or divide by force” AND “To cling, adhere, or stick fast.” Over the past few decades, we have seen predominantly one side of this word – the splitting, the dividing, the divisions.

My Vision for 2020 is that – over the next 10 years - our great city of Cleveland will come together, adhere, and stick fast, and embrace the OTHER definition, and put the Cleave back in Cleveland.

A Great Lake deserves a Great City, where Superior and Commerce meet.

The challenge is yours; the Vision is ours. One Goal.

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