Optimism Revolution

by | Apr 23, 2024

In 2018, the Fund for Our Economic Future set forth regional priorities via our publication, The Two Tomorrows. The priorities center on a simple, data-informed idea: An economy that excludes some will fail all. The Two Tomorrows calls for work toward a better tomorrow, defined as one with a continuously regenerating economy with good jobs and rising incomes for all, regardless of race or place. 

Since then, the region and the world have changed significantly.

Patterns merely nascent in 2018 broke through floodgates in 2020. The surge in remote work and retirement and the expansion of gig work caused traditional offices to evolve into more flexible spaces. Digital revolutions in automation and artificial intelligence have reshaped the economy, work dynamics and job functions. Labor force participation rates increased. Racial income inequities also increased. Clean energy gained traction and reshaped industries. Housing shortages intensified. Markets experienced volatility and inflation, with new sectors emerging and older ones waning.   

Thus far, the response at a national level has injected tremendous levels of funding into the American economy. That investment, paired with a noteworthy changeover in regional leadership, offers a unique chance for Northeast Ohio to define itself instead of being defined. The region is ripe for positive change. This positive change is enabled by the transition to a greener economy.  

And a green economy will favor places—like Northeast Ohio—that make things. However, this transition risks surrendering to habitual momentum of the past. Deep-seated income inequities and historical patterns of economic and geographic exclusion persist. Addressing these pre-existing conditions with urgency, especially the entrenched disparities perpetuated by systemic racism, is not just a moral imperative—it’s an economic one.

A better future is possible. As Cleveland author Charles W. Chesnutt once wrote: “Impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or which we do not wish to happen.” We choose to learn. We choose to wish. 

 

Bethia Burke 

President, Fund for Our Economic Future 

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