At City Club 06.24.05: Robert W. Briggs, Chairman of Fund for Our Economic Future, on “Regionalization

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 06/25/2005 - 23:16.

Opening the 06.24.05 City Club forum, Vice President Sanjiv K. Kapur announced the expiration of the term of
President Kevin J. Donahue by celebrating the Club’s success under his
leadership. This year has been seen at the City Club perhaps the finest slate
of speakers and events in history and Kapur exclaims the
Club is better positioned than ever for the future. Looking forward, he
declares there are three initiatives underway by the Board of Directors:

Development – to insure overall organizational progress

Diversity – to insure a diverse membership and inclusive
community value

Distribution – addressing changing technologies to further
global appreciation for the City Club and programming

On the agenda today is Robert W. Briggs, Chairman of Fund
for Our Economic Future, presenting his perspectives on “Regionalization�.

Briggs states this is an exciting time in NEO. He asks the
audience, “can we actually do it� – can we reverse the downward spiral of NEO
and reverse the economic trends to achieve new heights not imagined before.
Look back to Cleveland’s economy in the 1970s – bottoming out in 1978 with
default. Community leaders came together – revitalized Cleveland – from Rock
Hall to Jacob’s Field – Cleveland became “Comeback City�.

That comeback didn’t last – Cleveland is again facing
challenges – but so is entire region. Can Cleveland return to “comeback� level
alone? No – we’re now part of global economy and must partner with brothers and
sisters across the region – needs collective positive attitude and action –
perhaps if we’d taken regional approach in the 70s and 80s we wouldn’t be in
this state now.

Fund For Our Economic Future is an unprecedented alignment
of nearly 70 foundations working together to lead economic development in this
region through grant making, progress management, and civic engagement – rooted
in inclusion

Before elaborating on FFOEF strategy, Briggs explains what
we mean by regionalism. Doesn’t mean one city/county government or “Greater
Cleveland� going it alone – it isn’t an us against them mentality. It describes
how we pool our resources – making our own region attractive to companies and
industries – competing with other regions – identifying assets that will be
attractive to clusters – creating alignment across broader geographic area.

Briggs points out the smallest economic unit is a region –
density of relationships means if a product or services isn’t available from
one company there is another company to provide it – companies are thus able to

Companies want to locate where there are competitive
advantage, including workforce, land, transportation, scale and scope of
resources and support services, good government policy – NEO has it all… we
just need better alignment

NEO includes15 countries covering NE corner of Ohio, which
is large enough for scale but not too large. People in NEO identify themselves
with this region – we have over 3 million people and a larger economy than
Israel. We have waterways and agriculture, industry, service excellence, excellent
air, water, rail and ground transportation, great universities – FFOEF is
working to help package and market all this.

Their going county to county, to all foundations, recruiting
collaborators – variety of missions – unprecedented in our nation’s history,
including for getting involved in economic development… all sectors in the
region stand to benefit.

From the FFOEF website, the mission is “to encourage and
advance a common and highly focused regional economic development agenda that
can lead to long-term economic transformation in ways that recognize the
importance of core cities, inclusion/diversity, and quality of life. This will
be accomplished by convening key stakeholders, tracking overall regional
progress, and backing key initiatives�.

FFOEF grants have been made to non-profits furthering the
mission: TeamNEO, Bioenterprise, and Nortech. Mentions OneCleveland, now being
OneNEO, which has further economic potential. JumpStart is another sign of

FFOEF is measuring region’s progress – benchmarking with
Universities Collaborative via a dashboard measuring progress and working to
pinpoint clusters

FFOEF is funding public engagement – over next 14 months
will engage 10,000s of area residents discussing needs of community – Voices
and Choices – working with Universities Collaborative and America Speaks –
array of discussion forums, one-on-one interviews, town hall meetings – also
planning media programs educating the public. First large-scale Voices and
Choices event will take place this fall at University of Akron.

Briggs says they are we taking such a deliberative approach
rather than just using “top-down� command and control because there are many
top-down examples that excluded groups of people who then reject approaches. If
experts decide we need to focus on biotech but no one wants to enter that
workforce then that will fail. At the end of voices and choices we’ll have
consensus that represent the wants of the people.

There are three strategies involved: set priorities; use
collaborative structure, preferably led by business sector; instill confidence.
Can’t just wait out changes in economy. With clear priorities, regional
economic development is possible.

Look at Minneapolis/St. Paul. They created a Metropolitan
Council for region and statute that acknowledges all city governments are
interdependent. And they are achieving incredible growth, especially among
young people.

Research Triangle is another example of innovative
alignments – three universities that in the 1950s decided to work together and
focus on research – partnership formed to market 13 county region.

Economic Development is a deliberate process. Need to temper
frustration. If we the people of NEO are a region we need to think and act as a
region – need to consider how we can reach out to collaborate – it is very
possible for all to collaborate – alignment must happen at the top.

When Porter says confidence is essential, he is saying,
“attitude counts�. If we choose to wait out change in the weather we will fail.
Need to shift our habits and minds, and be patient. Need to recognize benefits
of rural and urban alignment – not all companies want to locate in cities, but
do need assets provided there.

Can we do it? Round up 10,000s of people for dialogue, and
achieve actionable agenda, and extend our sense of region, and pool resources
and be interdependent – the other option is failure. The foundation community
is betting huge amounts of money and effort toward these purposes. We’re
setting precedent and hope everyone in the forum will join the effort.

Please volunteer to help with the initiative and Voices and
Choices – sign up sheets are on their website. Can we do this? Audience says,

Questions and Answers

Q. The Knight Foundation made a major grant to advance
immigrant support in four cities – how important is encouraging immigrants.

A. Very important to welcome immigrants – around US the most
prosperous regions are successful with this and Knight Foundation is committed
to this. FFOEF commitment is to Voices and Choices and I don’t know where this
will land with that.

Q. What kind of staffing is being used for this effort – are
Universities offering support? And what level of support are you getting from

A. We determined not to form new organization for FFOEF so
we formed committees of major funders – foundations have loaned staff and found
volunteers, who manage day to day operations, lead by Brad Whithead of
Cleveland Foundation. As for political cooperation, we didn’t involve them in
forming coalition but are now reaching out to them – later in month going to DC
to brief congressional leaders – no one has stood in the way… they’ll come.

Q. What are provisions for sustainability for this?

A. We have raised $30 million and we hope to see early
successes, like with JumpStart and Bioenterprise – hope when we go back to
funders next year and they will provide more funding – hope to add leverage
with state and federal money.

Q. Does your organization feel gambling is an industry worth

A. “Don’t bet on it� – we’ll depend on Voices and Choices to

Q. Share info on work with University Collaborative.

A. Extensive – both for Voices and Choices and Dashboard –
couldn’t be happier with day in and day out support – couldn’t be happier

Q. May people worry about sprawl?

A. One Cleveland is now OneNEO – connecting dark fiber
across region – 1,000 times faster and 1,000,000 times capacity of DSL/Cable –
highways connected everyone but dispersed them – bandwidth may connect

Q. What are you doing about manufacturing?

A. If we don’t have the jobs folks won’t come into region.
Manufacturing is one core cluster, but we need to defer to Voices and Choices
to determine priorities.

Q. 3rd Frontier ties economic development to
education – what interactions do you have with them – and the 3rd
Frontier is undergoing impact analysis focused on jobs – how will you measure
success in consideration of long lead times, like with job development


A. 3rd Frontier – we work in complimentary way
with them and coordinate – and we can’t instantly create 1,000s of jobs –
deliberative process – if Voices and Choices can get NEO out of negativism that
will be giant step forward. People come here and find it is a great place –
leverage that – taking very broad-brush approach – need to turn diversity into

Q. You refer to your work as regionism

A. I am amazed by our rural communities and their appeal –
Lorain and Ashtabula offer two great ends

Q. Doing anything to keep businesses here?

A. TeamNEO is focused on retention – support top 150
businesses in NEO and provide close personal support – we won’t be surprised by
any of these companies departing

Q. Be more operational in describing Voices and Choices –
how to make order out of Chaos.

A. Points out that Dick Pogue asked that – he was father of
regionalism back in 70s – if we gain consensus then we will have put together
1,000+ regional leaders and 1,000s of citizens who will put outcomes together
and make things happen – this will help get politicians on-board – we need
massive media support

Q. Vision for inclusion as support plank for Fund?

A. Important – diversity must be international asset
here – for every grant we’ve made the organizations must achieve diversity
benchmarks – in one case the organization had to restructure their strategic
plan – with Voices and Choices diversity is integral – invitees are planned to mirror
cross-section of the community