Economic development coverage in the PD

Submitted by Ed Morrison on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 10:02.

This Sunday's PD carried a story about an exciting new polymer center at Case. The story profiled Anne Hiltner, the Center's impressive director. Read more. In the world of economic development, this news is a big deal.

There's only one problem: the event took place over seven months ago (last July). See the original press release from Case here. The original PD story was short (324 words) and largely missed the importance of the event for our region.

Profiling Dr. Hiltner is a good move by the PD. But the fact remains that the profile is separated from the event by seven months. I just question the editorial decisions made by the PD on this story. In other words, why did they place this story far below casino gambling in their economic development priorities in the past six months?

Why did they take such a long time to recognize Dr. Hiltner's extraordinary achievement?

Why do the editors seem to have so little understanding that Dr. Hiltner's work -- and the work of other research scientists at Case -- is critical to the economic future of our region? (See the recent working paper from the Cleveland Federal Reserve here. This paper underscores the importance of educational attainment and patents as key economic drivers.)

As I look into the story, there are other important angles to explore. For example, the grant includes a partnership between Case and the Cleveland Metro School District. How will this partnership work? Could this partnership lead to a kind of Boston City Lab for polymers? (The grant also includes a partnership with Fisk University to expand engineering opportunities for African-Americans. How will that work?)

What business development opportunities exist with microlayering and nanolayering processes? For people to start to see a positive future for the region, the PD needs to be telling a lot more practical stories about what could be.

As we uncovered first at REI and later at I-Open, there are literally dozens of positive stories that capture exciting opportunities for our region: stories about new business models of open innovation; explosive growth among companies in preventive health care; the application of digital media to product development, medical research (robotic surgery) and education (in, for example, treating autism); new models of K-12 education; new models of high school engineering education (Fenn Academy); strong opportunities in MEMS; dynamic research in early childhood education; a good possibility for manufacturing wind power components (although Pennsylvania may have beaten us to the punch). The list goes on.

Yet, the editors of the PD are very slow (or unwilling) to figure any of this out.

We have no coverage of what is taking place in Milwaukee (a new initiative announced by the governor last week), Pittsburgh (continued technology-led development that is accelerating per capita income growth far past Cleveland), Detroit (a new strategy underway in January) or Cincinnati (expanded collaborations with Northern KY and a recent trip of civic leaders to Boston).

Indeed, the best recent Ohio coverage on economic development comes from the Toledo Blade. See, for example, Ohio economy sputters as innovation declines. For a model outside Ohio, look to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The editors are committed to shapng the regional dialogue in a positive way. See, for example, last week’s editorial Fostering innovation.

In my view, the casino story last fall damaged the reputation of the PD statewide. The casino story revealed that the PD editors have become little more than a shill for self-absorbed downtown real estate interests.

If we are going to have a strong regional economy (the jury is still out on that one), a vibrant, engaged newspaper will help significantly. The PD can do its part by putting some editorial focus on positive alternatives (not just "Cleveland: Dead or Dying" stories).

Our move to a more prosperous region will accelerate with stronger, more professional economic development coverage by the PD.

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Crying "fire" brings fire sales

I was talking yesterday with a top regional planner focused on Cleveland and he and I agree the longterm prospects for NEO are very bright. We feel this way not because anyone big here is doing anything big right about economic development, but because in the big scheme of economic development the Cleveland area has many attractions that will appeal in a truly global marketplace. I expect savvy minds in NEO well realize the region is at a bottom - we know who drove it to this state, in many ways. By spending years promoting a "quiet crisis" and making the crisis as palpable as possible, the powers that be and the Plain Dealer have pushed Cleveland-consumer confidence to the lowest possible level, driving down property values and private outside investments in the region. That has led to low prices and many subsidies for developers. It has all been a massive shell game. The pace of abuse accelerated over the past two years as it became clear the game is ending with the Republican stronghold on politics in the state of Ohio. Now, with an accountable governor and increasingly accountable other state and federal leadership, corrupt little games like found in the NEO economy will be nationalized and globalized. As the US economy starts growing again, for real, after the '08 elections, and becomes part of a thriving global economy again, the NEO economy will rise with the tide... no thanks to old0line leadership here, but it will happen. The community leaders who have participated in corrupt games will be greatly enriched or fall to shifting public sentiment, indignation and enforcement (like with the Forgotten Triangle, bringing Cleveland Major Frank Jackson into the limelight in today's papers - like with Allegra facing jail time for theft of public funds... etc.). Here's my projection for the NEO economy posted here - the smart money will invest long and hold.

Disrupt IT