By Crain’s Cleveland Business
Northeast Ohio is lagging behind the rest of the country in creating jobs. If it wants to catch up with the pack, it must embrace a bold plan first reported last week by Crain’s Jay Miller to help boost the regional economy. The 15-member Regional Competitiveness Council — made up of business and philanthropic leaders — has spent the past two years examining how to kick-start our area’s economic growth, specifically in three key areas: job creation, gross regional product and per capita income.
“We went in and looked at the landscape and said, “something’s not working, we’re not generating the kind of jobs the rest of the nation is,’ ” the competitiveness council’s co-chair, Ward J. Timken Jr., chairman, president and CEO of TimkenSteel Corp., told Crain’s. “Had we been on track with the rest of the nation for the last two decades, there would be 400,000 more jobs today in Northeast Ohio. That was one of the “ah-ha’ moments for us as a group.”
That realization led the group to create a regional economic competitiveness strategy that aims to attract new businesses and help existing ones compete and expand. Other key goals include creating a better-educated workforce and increasing the pace of job creation in the region by 50%, with the goal of equaling the performance of the nation in 10 to 20 years.
The first step in the strategy was taken last week with the merger of regional economic development nonprofits NorTech and Team Northeast Ohio. This new organization — which will carry the Team NEO name — will begin work by narrowing its focus to a handful of industries. Instead of a shotgun approach covering a range of economic sectors, the group will be much more targeted. Of the three or four areas it will target, biomed and shale likely will top the list. The other one or two would be determined by the newly formed Team NEO. It’s a wise move to invest time, effort and capital in industries that have the highest growth potential.