The Two Tomorrows Suggests Northeast Ohio can Choose to be Extraordinary

by | Feb 28, 2018

CLEVELAND–February 28, 2018–The Fund for Our Economic Future (Fund) announced today the release of The Two Tomorrows, a report that offers a sober assessment of the current state of Northeast Ohio’s economy and recommendations for how to move toward a more competitive and inclusive tomorrow.

“Northeast Ohio has had its share of high-profile achievements that should be celebrated,” said Brad Whitehead, president of the Fund. “At the same time, this progress should not be mistaken for the overall state of the region’s economy. Northeast Ohio faces real economic challenges. Other regions are out-investing and out-innovating us. We are leaving people behind and further widening racial and economic divides. We need to take thoughtful action to change this reality.”

Two Tomorrows

To drive and sustain competitiveness, Northeast Ohio needs to take innovation and investment to the next level. The region must also take deliberate steps to address economic polarization and systemic racial exclusion, serious threats to our region’s long-term vibrancy; concentrations of poverty are persistent and growing and racial inequalities in economic outcomes cannot be ignored or explained away.

“In order to address our economic stagnation and inequality in a comprehensive and cooperative way, we must first ask ourselves are we prepared to transform our economy from exclusive to inclusive, from average to extraordinary?” asked Mark Samolczyk, president and CEO of Stark Community Foundation and Chair of the Fund.

The region is faced with two tomorrows: one where Northeast Ohio is average. Where a legacy industry mix, persistent concentrations of poverty, lower than average educational attainment rates, the outmigration of people and jobs, and persistent racial disparities continue to undermine the region’s economic competitiveness.

The Fund imagines a different tomorrow: one where Northeast Ohio is extraordinary. Where the region holds co-equal the mutually supportive goals of economic growth and equitable access to opportunity. Where it becomes a region with a growing traded sector and vibrant young firms; a region that is increasing the prosperity of all its residents, providing full employment and economic security to those who call it home; and a region that eliminates racial employment and income disparities and geographic concentrations of poverty. A more economically competitive and inclusive tomorrow where Northeast Ohio achieves a continuously regenerating economy with good jobs and rising incomes for everyone.

A Call to Action

Northeast Ohio can achieve this vision of a more economically competitive and inclusive tomorrow. How? By coming together around ten strategies in job creation, job preparation and job access with deliberate attention to systemic race-based inequities. Effective execution will require strong local strategies in communities across the region, shared regional priorities for state-wide and national advocacy, a focus on systemic solutions, and a collaborative mindset.

We must also share a vision of success. “What gets measured gets done, and it’s time to redefine how we measure progress toward a better tomorrow,” said Bethia Burke, director of strategy and resource allocation for the Fund. “Our collective definition of success must go beyond traditional growth measures of gains in employment, gross product, and per capita income. We must hold ourselves accountable for economic growth that offers all residents access to good jobs, regardless of race or place.”

The Two Tomorrows calls for measures of success that hold economic growth co-equal to equitable access to economic opportunity. Key indicators include growth in the traded sector, growth in young firms, rising prosperity, full employment, economic security, racial employment equity, racial income equity and geographic equity. Individual scorecards break out these same measures for the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown.

The Fund is already using the priorities codified in The Two Tomorrows to shape its collective actions and to inform individual actions of its 30-plus members. These actions include efforts to improve worker mobility, drive innovation, develop sector workforce strategies and encourage development in job hubs. In addition, more than 260 individuals from the staff or boards of Fund members participated in race, equity and inclusion training provided by the Racial Equity Institute in 2017.

The Fund cannot achieve an extraordinary tomorrow alone. “We hope these priorities might serve as a basis to align efforts with our partners from business, the public sector, neighborhood-based leadership, higher education and national communities of practice,” said Kevin Alin, director of regional engagement for the Fund. “Being average is a choice – so is being extraordinary,” he added.

To download a copy of the Two Tomorrows report, go to

About the Fund for Our Economic Future

The Fund for Our Economic Future is an alliance of funders — foundations, corporations, universities, health care systems, business and civic associations, government entities, and individuals — who pool their resources and know-how to advance economic growth and increased access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio through improved job creation, job preparation and job access, an approach called Growth & Opportunity. The Fund advances its Growth & Opportunity mission by building shared community commitment, supporting high-impact collaborations and marshalling strategic funding. Since its founding in 2004, the Fund has raised more than $100 million for its efforts, which have helped retain or create more than 21,500 jobs, add $930 million in payroll, and attract $5.3 billion in capital to Northeast Ohio.

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