Creating Innovation Networks in Midtown

Submitted by Betsey Merkel on Wed, 02/08/2006 - 22:49.

June Holley was leading this week's forum. June is a nationally recognized researcher and practitioner in identifying, leading and coaching innovation networks.

Our first question from June: What would you like to see happen in Cleveland?

Here are some ideas produced by some of the small working groups from the audience: (for non- and for-profits)

* Minorities in healthcare devices industry

* Lots of entrepreneurs

* More spin-offs from the hospitals

* More collaboration and lateral behaviors bringing people together

* High speed rail, connecting cities

* Ideas and people together to evaluate ideas

* Core city strengthened

Our next question is, who do you know who can help you with the development of these ideas?

* E-City started by John Zitzner for kids and incorporating a strong process

* Shorebank can help Alex Michaels with support of a proposed film incubator

* Find small companies to come together to share supplies and in a larger group work out better arrangements

* High speed rail: historically rail was better centralized; now tavel is decentralized and often takes several bus rides, taxi's, etc for individuals who depend on public transportation adding up to a 3 -5 hour-a-day commute.

June: Alot of things are succeeding in your community and region. But this knowledge is often not shared. We need to build environments to share and spread successful practices, and get to know each other.

These kinds of environments are called networking hubs. How can we make networking hubs stronger? A good example is the kitchen incubator model developed at ACEnet. Hundreds and hundreds of businesses use the facility. It is also a great way for businesses to get to know each other. This is a true networking hub of people with alot of things in common.

The success of these hubs depends on a casual environment where people can exchange ideas. There needs to be a network weaver type of personality present to help facilitate the connections. For example: in Athens, one individual works in one restaurant during the day and another at night. She connects at multiple spots and is able to "spread" new stories and knowledge about innovation.

Often economic develpment leaders don't think about the value of this kind of networking. A good example of this kind of productive environment is in Northern Italy where small stores are very active with alot of innovation present. Research also backs this theory up with statistics. This kind of dynamic, active environment accelerates innovative businesses to be even more innovative.

Network weavers are critical in helping to create activities that need to happen to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship. We are finding that network weavers are valuable and we need many people practicing good networking.

Who do you know of who is a network weaver? In summary, think about the importance of postitive deviance, network weaving and networking hubs. If you have any questions, just email June Holley at: juneh [at] acenetworks [dot] org.

June made us think

It was great to be part of the Incubator workshop. June really made  me (us) think about things. In the short time we were together, we got into groups and people came up with ideas and actions. I especially enjoyed the "Kitchen Incubator." There is a lot small businesses can do together. I shot a scene of my TV show at CAAO in an office they had free while they worked. They barely knew I was there. It was great that Connie and William and Beverly and CAAO are so open to help people. 

Everyone always talks about people not collaborating, but the truth is, businesses here come together all the time. It may not make the news, but it keeps us thriving and allows us to be "bigger" than we are.

People just have to speak up and find opportunities and also be as willing to  "give" as you "receive."


Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

Is the local "film industry" coming together?

I agree completely, Alex, and I believe we are getting better around here at coming together all the time. At this stage in the transformation of NEO's new economy, there are so many good initiatives in the region and good people working on new ones, it is overwhelming.

A good example is with film, which I know is near and dear to your heart. We have many good film makers and professionals here, and good film education, and a film commission and film festivals - what else do we need and do all these people, organizations and initiatives work well together and leverage their critical mass to the highest possible impact, in funds generated, jobs and wealth created, number of independent/local and studio film projects started and completed, dollars spent in NEO, etc.? How can the industry work better for you here?  REALNEO wants to know!

Post your thoughts here, and be prepared for an excellence roundtable on this subject, coming up at the City Club on I believe Tuesday, Feb. 21st - details to post to REALNEO shortly. 

Show Business is a BUSINESS

While you are right, film is dear to my heart, I also realize that it is a Business first and foremost.


And so I spend a lot of time in the business community because that is where the support for filmmakers is lacking. Still, it is understandable. Right now, there is not the infrastructure needed to support the filmmakers here. The majority of them will produce projects with their own funds or manage to gather some investors. Once completed, those projects do manage to play festivals but the majority do not produce income. Whereas with theater, a play is produced and the audience pays to see it, so you have a creative production and a consumer.


Movies have a longer lifespan than a theater production and also can be exported all over the world. The audience for a particular movie may not be here. It also doesn't matter about how long ago a production was produced, it still has the potential to generate income. Every year MGM plays "The Wizard of Oz" which was produced in 1939. And every year, it makes money for them.

I am working on building the infrastructure and getting together with the necessary people in the business community, so the movies produced here will not just be recognized as an industry, but also give back to the community in terms of jobs created and income from productions.

There is a ton of filmmakers producing content, so there is not a lack of that. There is very little ties to the business community here. I've been working recently with i-open and the civic forums have been very helpful. I have a Friday morning meeting with Nan McIntyre of Shorebank enterprises. That is a great organization that has a mission of strengthening the community. There are other such organizations here that are looking for ways to build this economy.  Given the large number of people in an industry like this, we could create a few thousand jobs every year. A lot of the people here are volunteering long long hours on movie and TV projects.


A vibrant movie community here will spur a large number of jobs and create excitement that this region needs.


I also recieved help from CAAO this week. I shot a scene of my TV series at their offices and William Holdipp was helpful in some budget advice as well.  I'm still crunching the income projections though.


While I would like to do more of the creative things, I think someone here has to work on building that infrastructure. I've sacrificed a lot of time I could have spent working on my TV series and other projects, but I think its worth it. There's a lot of helpful people out there like REALNEO.

I am happy to hear about the Roundtable at the City Club.


While we do need to keep the critical mass going with productions, we also need to focus on building the structure here. Hollywood has been called a dream factory and that is what movies are about.  There are many different types of dreams. And there is an audience out there for every film project produced here.  Honestly people have different taste and personalities, so you won't get all of them working together. All of Hollywood doesn't work together. It's just the nature of the beast.


Yet, in the early days of Hollywood, they recognized the need to do things that would benefit them all.  We are like Hollywood here (circa 1920's). If we ever want to get to that stage of making income for all of us, we do need to focus on the things that will benefit us all.


We have the potential here to build a Industry that will impact this region artistically and financially if we build that much needed tie with the business community and those who will fund not just a movie or TV project,  but fund the beginning of the movie industry here. 



Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

Re: June made us think

Hi Alex,

I am glad CAAO was able to help you out. 

Great I-Open Session

Hi Betsey


Great session!  I truly enjoy the I-Open sessions.  I sent June an email yesterday.  I hope to have her speak to the CAAO business owners.  Since the session I have been thinking about network hubs in Midtown.  I think they are critical to revitlizing the area.  I am going to brainstorm on ways I can make the CAAO office space into a network hub.  If you have any ideas, please share them.

New media creating new Hollywoods

I was amazed to be driving around the neighborhood of a friend living in Oakland, CA - a run-down, industrial area near Oakland/Berkeley - and suddenly I came across this massive gateway with the words Pixar across the gates, leading into a stunning, spotless campus that represents the Hollywood of today, entertainment related creative IT companies transforming industrial neighborhoods in Oakland, and coming to industrial neighborhoods of Cleveland, more and more.

Because of IT, "film" is now digital and production is computer-generated, and can happen anywhere, real-time. Just as with other IT sectors, plenty of entertainment dollars are being outsourced to lower costs markets, of which Cleveland can be one. Why is Paxar in Oakland - I'll speculate it is near enough all the smart people coming out of Berkeley and Silicon Valley and all points NSE&W - urban and near public transportation, highways and airports without paying Class A costs of real estate, parking, etc. Their workers benefit because their costs to work are low (free parking, cheap neighborhood, good access) and they get to be urban pioneers and so get in on the ground floor on the transformation of a community. Win-win.

We can play in that game - midtown is a similar neighborhood to Pixar's and a thriving new media company in the old Richmond Brothers building on E.55th would be as impressive.

Michael DeAloia, Lev Gonick, OneCleveland in general, David Moss and the CIA, and all other area IT leaders are all pushing for multimedia - creative content - as a major industry here.

I believe the community now needs to understand "film" and IT and gaming and ultra-wide-band connectivity and the creative class and open source and bridging the digital divide and education and "Cleveland" are all interconnected and core to our regional economy.

So, it is not that all the film people need to work together as one group but that they need to work together - PARTICIPATE - with the information technology and economic development and foundation and academic and venture capital and public relations and media "industries" to include "film" in the $ multi-billion strategy being developed to reinvent our economy. Community leaders don't automatically understand all this but will if a well organized group of sector leaders make the right presentation, and then the opportunities for film makers and in that industry will become near limitless here .

So, what is the short list of who should be at the table to build such a collaboration? 

Short List for the Film City Club Roundtable

 I recently attended the opening of Future over at CIA and it was good to see how they took a day care center and turned it into a place of for design. With digital media all is now possible.  Creative content involves so many of the talents we already have here, that it will be possible to include nearly everyone on some level.

Here is a short list of who should be there. This list is just what I can come up with now as a good start, but does not include everyone here. Although it should be a good start. I'd like to be included of course.

 Others to include are:

Chris Carmody of the Film Commission. He has reached out to Hollywood and brought movies here and is a strong supporter that we need studios here (not just one but the more the merrier). Chris was very helpful to me in the civic forum I lead at i-open.

David Moss and CIA. His design studios can be an invaluable asset in building the studios. He and his team managed to pull off some great collobarations in getting Future up and running.

The tech czar Michael DeAloia is a good choice as well. Technology is such a key part in this equation.

County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones. Peter is very helpful to me with my Studio Incubator and he is a playwright himself. One does not need to preach the benefits of media to him. He already gets it and is a strong advocator of it.

Julie Washington, the Entertainment Reporter of the Plain Dealer. Julie covers the local filmmaking scene and of course Hollywood. The press is a crucial element in marketing productions.

Betsey Merkel of i-open. Betsey has been working with me on the Studio Incubator. She has experience with the creative industries.The entire i-open team is very helpful and their approach makes it very easy for positive collobarations to happen.

 Thomas Mulready of Cool Cleveland and

Jim Levin of Cleveland Public Theatre.

What these two accomplished in getting the Ingenuity festival  off the ground was amazing and their efforts can be duplicated in getting the creative industry to be a central part of this economy. "Ingenuity" could be used a case study for how to successful bring together the community for the benefit of all using the creative industry. Besides they reached a lot of the community leaders that shape this community.

 Carolyn Jack of the Plain Dealer would be another good person to have there. She has written a lot of articles on arts and the economy.

Someone like Peter B. Lewis or Sam Miller would also be a welcome addition. They are always willing to speak their mind. We should have someone of their power level on the panel. Albert Ratner might be a good person. I read that he supported Ingeunity. Once someone of that level comes aboard, it makes a solid statement to the community how beneficial the film industry can be to the economic developement of the city. Just my thoughts on the panel.
Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

Film next steps by May? By Ingenuity?

Excellent start. Keep thinking about this and adding names. Are there any current or likely investors in town? Who are the film makers? Who are the educators and mentors? Who is the film industy in NEO? Everyone must all be at the table!

At the top, there are several Gund family members (George and his wife, and Catherine, at least) who are very into film, so they are the most logical major outside champions. I will be happy to contact them when we have a clear vision and collaboration together. Who else is there at this level with a strong interest in some aspect of film? What about animation? Multimedia? Think big and industry.

In setting big, fast goals, what could people interested in film - the industry and related fields - do by this May to further the industry here - I think we should have a Spring arts month this May and include film and film industry awareness? And then what can be done for Ingenuity, in July?  

Contacting the Film Community and Educators

"Excellent start. Keep thinking about this and adding names. Are
there any current or likely investors in town? "
I do have some investors, I'll see if they want to be involved. I'm
talking to other potential investors and will make certain to
invite them.

"Who are the film makers? "
There is a Yahoo group at
It has almost 300 members, so you can reach the film community
You might also want to send a post to Fred Sternfeld's NEohioPAL (Northeast Ohio Performing Arts List).
It has 4,240+ subscribers and will reach the artistic community.

Who are the educators and mentors?
One of my mentors is Joseph Marshall Parnell. He works in the
business section of the Cleveland Public Library and is the rep.
for the local Screen Actors Guild. Joe has a well versed
understanding of the BUSINESS side of Show Business.
Other educators to involve would be
Prester Pickett: a talented playwright, filmmaker and
Coordinator, African American Cultural Center, Cleveland State
Austin Allen, associate professor of communication/film,
Cleveland State University.
Bernie Van Tilburg, Media Technology Instructor
Cuyahoga Valley Career Center

"In setting big, fast goals, what could people interested in film -
the industry and related fields - do by this May to further the
industry here - I think we should have a Spring arts month this
May and include film and film industry awareness? And then
what can be done for Ingenuity, in July?"

I have to think some more on this one.  I'm working on finances this week, so I am in "Left Brain" mode.



Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

Film list comes together as community

Excellent, Alex. You've identified a great, diverse group of film industry champions. Now to turn this into a powerful community.


I think we should add to the list the economic development folks who keep preaching "creative class" - folks from the foundations, city, TeamNEO, CPAC, GCP, JumpStart, IdeaStream, etc. - to see what they are looking for and expect... and to help them to look for, expect and support more. The purpose of the industry (and this roundtable) should be to determine what more "film" may be in NEO, and what support is needed to get there.

Re: Film list comes together as a community


Hello Alex,


When you are ready, I can help you with getting a meeting with GCP, TeamNEO, and JumpStart. 


 Also the Cleveland Foundation has a program called the Corro Fellowship.  You can get more information on the Cleveland Foundation website.  You may be able to get some of the fellows to assist you with this project.  Also Cleveland Bridge Builders has a program called Leadership Action Projects (LAP).  Participants in the CBB program work on community initiatives.  TeamNeo and the Civic Innovation Lab were two of the many projects that were worked on by the LAP program. I will find out what is the process for applying for this opportunity.  Leadership Cleveland also has a program that is similar.  I am not sure about their process, but I will contact their office.

Woody Allen and Networking hubs

Sounds good William. I've been to the Jumpstart meetings and met quite a few people. I agree, it is time to involve them in the "film equation." I believe it was Woody Allen who said  90% of life is just showing up. I was checking out some space in Midtown today and went to get a Mocha Swirl at Phoenix Coffee on Superior and 21st. I ran into Jim Levin. He was working on "Ingenuity."


Phoenix is great networking hub. 


It's funny who you run into when you just go out.  I was just talking about  Jim Levin and what a great accomplishment "Ingenuity" is to involve the community, capital and the creative class.


I concur. "I think we should add to the list the economic development folks who keep preaching "creative class" - folks from the foundations, city, TeamNEO, CPAC, GCP, JumpStart, IdeaStream, etc. -"


Oh, and I have talked to Paul Oyaski who is with the county. It would be benefical to involve the city and the county.


Please let me know if the Feb 21st date is confirmed. 


The sooner we start bringing the right people together, the more action we can achieve.




Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

On just showing up for film, on February 28th

It's interesting how each coffee house has its own communities - we're very fortunate to have A.J. Rocco's in our building and it is a major networking and business hub of downtown.

I can help bring OneCleveland, JumpStart, Civic Innovation Labs, TeamNEO, Cleveland Institute of Art and a bunch of other very helpful organizations (folks) to the table. So it looks like we'll need a big room, and a few weeks to spread the word. So, plan for an Excellence Roundtable on "NEO Film" at the City Club from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM Tuesday February 28th.

Ed Hauser, Jane Alexander and I will coordinate on our side - Ed will be most invoved in organizing the roundtable - feel free to email him at ed [at] realinks [dot] us

One of us will post a draft agenda and attendee list in the next few days and invite your feedback. This will be a very worthwhile dialogue.



Feb 28 for Film

Sounds good. I definitely will be there.

There were two good articles in today's Crain's Cleveland Business News. On page 6, the title was "Cuyahoga Leaders take aim at grassroots growth." It mentioned the commissioners are committing 1.5 million toward economic development. the article also mentioned open source economic development.

Page 7 is "Art students bring biz world new ideas with profitable partnerships" and talks at CIA.

The roundtable will be a good way of making sure the film industry is included in the economic development of the region. 


Alex P. Michaels

Building the Knight Movie Studio Incubator

Who are the network weavers?

I was just compiling all the content on film for the upcoming NEO Film Roundtable and I read through these notes and noticed the comment about "network weavers". "There needs to be a network weaver type of personality present to help facilitate the connections." "Network weavers are critical in helping to create activities that need to happen to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship. We are finding that network weavers are valuable and we need many people practicing good networking." Well, I'm definitely into weaving networks - who else is really into this?


Speaking of weaving networks, there's lots more weaving of the NEO Film network happening in the postings below.