Joe Roman’s decision to retire next spring from the Greater Cleveland Partnership that he has led since its inception in March 2004 can be a watershed moment for Cleveland — if the transition helps lead to fresh perspectives and opened doors for new, racially inclusive leadership in Greater Cleveland’s civic institutions. The moment and the opportunity should not be lost
This is no rap on Roman. At the helm of GCP — which he helped fashion into a supercharged chamber of commerce that married local economic development work with broad business leadership and advocacy — Roman helped bring corporate focus to bear on such critical issues as downtown development, Cleveland school reform, corporate attraction and greater diversity and inclusiveness in the city’s business landscape. Those reforms helped seed visible progress.
As Cleveland seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with its economy more nimble and more innovative, Roman, in an April op-ed, outlined an important trio of goals: more resilient local manufacturing; expanded broadband access; and streamlined local government.
But new civic voices, and not just at GCP, are needed to carry these and other priorities forward.
It’s time for a new generation of leaders not yoked to old ways of thinking and acting. It’s time to bring diversity and inclusion to bear on our civic institutions, and on their priorities and manner of operating.
Roman’s announcement follows last fall’s resignation of Brad Whitehead as head of the pioneering local philanthropic consortium Fund for Our Economic Future.
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