Monday, June 30, 2008

Planless Cleveland

Richard Herman, of Rust Belt High Skill Immigration Zone fame, e-mailed a link to a bit of commentary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland appears rudderless in the face of globalization. One theme is the lack of human capital. Over at Brewed Fresh Daily, Ed Morrison take Cuyahoga County to task for a lack of vision:

Now here’s the really sad part: Cleveland’s civic leadership is prepared to invest $400 million in public funds for a convention center — a strategy that does not work to create higher incomes. (Worse still, operating costs will drain County resources for decades. Convention centers compete in a very soft market with utilization rates under 20%.)

Cuyahoga County would be far better off if the County Commission took those public funds and created an endowment to support new scholarship programs for the county’s low income parents and children.

Much to Mr. Morrison's apparent exasperation, Cleveland seems disinterested in enhancing its knowledge assets. I might characterize the region as outright combative towards any proactive human capital initiative. However, I recall reading plenty of criticism about Pittsburgh's investment in a new convention center and that's not the only boondoggle eating at residents. But I don't think of Pittsburgh as heartless when it comes to improving educational attainment and developing the economy through brain power.

I'd guess that many, if not most, cities lack a comprehensive human capital strategy. Cleveland may indeed be one of the most egregious offenders of neglect, but I doubt I understand the entire story. My main concern is that I keep hearing, almost without exception, how bad things are in Cleveland. At a minimum, the civic leadership there needs to reach out to its distressed citizens and reassure them that the region has a plan. Because the current sales job has failed.

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