Growing inequality and the inability of entire segments of the population to advance economically have emerged as key issues of our time. Like much of the country, Northeast Ohio — where our Fund calls home — has experienced economic growth without sufficient economic opportunity. One in 20 people in Northeast Ohio lives in an area of economic distress, where less than 65 percent of the working-age population is employed or looking for work and where median household income falls in the bottom quartile. Too many residents have been left out of our recovery, and when that happens, we all suffer.
With 10 years of collaborative work under our belt, our Fund has learned that we cannot achieve a growing, opportunity-rich economy through job creation alone. Our research shows that metros that have created the most jobs have also tended to have higher poverty rates, higher inequality and crime. Indeed, real economic growth in the U.S. is systematically stronger and more sustainable in places where more people share in the opportunities being created. Thus, there exists not only an ethical imperative, but an economic imperative to support strategies that advance economic growth — job, income and output growth — and increased access to opportunity.
Growth & Opportunity is our Fund’s approach to growing our region’s economy in ways that create more opportunities for all people of Northeast Ohio.
Our Fund is in a unique position to help practitioners and stakeholders develop a common understanding of growth and opportunity and to foster collaboration on a way forward. We propose a three-tiered growth and opportunity framework that can bridge the “growth” and “opportunity” disconnect through strategies that advance job creation, job preparation and job access. And we invite others to join us in this work.
To be successful, these strategies must be connected, and they must also connect local communities — particularly those in economic distress — to the regional economy.
What we are striving to build is shared understanding that economic growth is more sustainable when all people can benefit from that growth; a common agenda to advance job creation, job preparation and job access; and aligned actions that achieve measureable and meaningful outcomes that are consistently tracked and reported.