Don Iannone shares good insight on Economic Development Futures problems in NEO

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 07/23/2006 - 19:03.

In today's Plain Dealer was what appeared like an exposé on economic development organizations in Northeast Ohio, but really just showed lots of big salaries and highlighted the obvious about our regional economy that was summed up in one line - " Has it worked? Not yet." I've had good experiences with two people in economic development in NEO - Cleveland Tech Czar Michael DeAloia and I-Open leader Ed Morrison, quoted in the PD article saying: "There's not strong enough leadership looking out, picking their head up out of the weeds and saying we need to be heading this way,"... "He argues we lack the civic skills to grab opportunities, make decisions and move on." I agree, and have found the ivory tower efforts for the region are not for me or my interests. They are for others, and traction is being made in some areas, like health sciences (hard to avoid, with the $ millions in health related R&D at Case and the Clinic alone... the Clinic just took a medical company public last week). But in the small business and IT spaces there is little support available, and there are real obsticals to progress, to some extent caused by the community belief there is a support structure in place to help entrepreneurship here, which there is not. One hopeful sign for the future is that Case has disposed of the dean of their business school, and so that institution may again add value to the region through a good replacement... we'll see. Otherwise, it is worth considering the insight Don Iannone shared on his blog in response to the PD article, which offer some good lessons learned by a good local economic development professional... a few highlights below... my favorite being "our regional economic development culture (that includes everybody and not just the faces and names in the Plain Dealer series) is combative, secretive, blaming, insular, and small-minded":

  • Culture, values, and attitude weigh heavily on regional economic development results. We suffer from a deep-seated defeatist attitude. It becomes an immune system deficiency that undermines everything we do. We doubt ourselves on the deepest level. People here must restore their confidence in their ability to prosper here. Also, our regional economic development culture (that includes everybody and not just the faces and names in the Plain Dealer series) is combative, secretive, blaming, insular, and small-minded. We have to change the ideas we carry around in our heads. One way to make this shift is to stop trying to go it alone and start partnering nationally and globally. See my article from July 22.
  • Team NEO was birthed in the same "top-down corporate culture" that has been undermining the community for several decades. Should we be surprised that the current model isn't working? The GE model for economic development doesn't work anymore! Stop trying to apply outmoded business strategy to economic development. Be the changemaker and stop trying to copy what others are doing.
  • Leadership, collaboration, local community buy-in, and funding are real issues, but they are contributing factors and not driving causes. Team NEO is under-funded by about 33%. That's an easy one to figure out. City, county, and regional development groups should work together more as a richly linked network. We need a fresh approach to leadership that is based in stewardship and service.

Don Iannone's blog in response to the PD article...