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U.S. economy improving, but recovery is lagging

Although the U.S. economy has improved since the recession, the recovery is still lagging, says Dr. Martin Regalia, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for economic and tax policy and chief economist.

Speaking to more than 75 middle-market CEOs at the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Fourth Quarter Middle-Market Forum last week, he described the economic picture as “glass half-full/glass half-empty.”

Half-full indicators include:
  • Six years of steady growth
  • Housing essentially recovered
  • Financial sector recovered
  • 11 million new jobs since start of recovery
  • Household net worth recovered
  • Corporate profits reasonably strong
  • Budget deficit halved
Half-empty indicators include:
  • Budget deficit still historically large and poised to increase
  • Flat real wages
  • Business investment in equipment flat Y/Y
  • Real GDP slowest recovery in 80 years
  • A persistent negative output gap
  • Potential growth slowing
Looking ahead, Regalia said the impact of the slow recovery will continue to be felt due to several concerns including:
  • End-game regulatory surge
  • Cloudy international picture
  • U.S. monetary and fiscal policies
“Over the long haul, people won’t have the opportunities they once did,” Regalia said. “Businesses aren’t hiring because they can meet the current demand with the workforce they have.”

He added that the next president is very likely to have to deal with an economic downturn.

Improvement can come with changes

The economy could improve, Regalia said, with changes that include:
  • Infrastructure investment
  • Education reform
  • Comprehensive tax reform
  • Energy market reform
  • Immigration reform
  • Entitlement reform

Thanks again to our middle market sponsors:

Middle-market perspectives:
Driving innovation internally is smart business

Recent research by the National Center for the Middle Market shows that nearly three-quarters—or 72 percent—of middle-market companies across all revenue segments and industries conduct innovation projects using internal teams.

They may be from R&D or found within a specific business unit or function. Internal innovation teams are most likely to be involved in generating and implementing innovative ideas, though they also play a key role in helping their companies select which innovative ideas to fund.

The next most popular method of innovation, used by about one-third of middle-market businesses is to consult with other business units or functional teams elsewhere in the company. The largest companies are the most likely to use this cross-functional approach, perhaps because they also are likely to have more teams and employees to tap for ideas.

Here are some ideas to consider when developing your in-house your innovation processes:

Keeping innovation close to home doesn’t hinder success. Although the vast majority of mid-sized businesses innovate without the assistance of outsiders, the middle market overall enjoys a respectable success rate for its innovation projects, with 57 percent of innovative ideas making it to market last year. On average, the most recent innovation project returned a healthy profit of 27 percent.

Engaging the whole firm—and top leaders in particular—is smart business.
It isn’t necessary to engage outside consultants or get input from the “crowd” to enjoy innovation success. The most effective innovators—or those that rate themselves the best at innovation—look beyond their dedicated innovation teams or their own business units. They are more likely to seek input from senior managers including the Chief R&D Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, and/or Chief Technology Officer.

Include as many people as you’re comfortable asking. When it comes to where your company innovates and who’s involved in the process, the choice comes down to where your business feels the most comfortable. If you decide to keep the process entirely in-house, try to include a wide range of employees, and especially business leaders, to help validate ideas.

Click to read more.

The National Center for the Middle Market, a collaboration between The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business and GE Capital, is a strategic partner of the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Middle-Market Initiative.

Construction diversity pre-apprenticeship program
to graduate sixth class

The Commission on Economic Inclusion’s Construction Diversity and Inclusion initiative (CDI) is continuing its outreach to create a diverse workforce pipeline for the Greater Cleveland construction industry.

Its sixth Pre-Apprenticeship Training (PAT) class—the largest yet with 18 participants—will wrap up its session on November 25. To date, 50 PAT students have graduated from the program.

Registered with the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council (OSAC), the PAT is maximizing opportunities to connect local diverse candidates—both women and minorities—with employers in the construction and building trades.

The Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Towards Employment and El Barrio/The Centers, serve as the CDI’s community partners in the PAT effort. Each organization identifies prospective PAT candidates, brings those candidates through a soft skills program to prepare them for the eight week classroom and hands-on technical skills training experience held at the Cuyahoga Community College Advanced Technology Training Center.

The Commission on Economic Inclusion is a program of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

2015 Employers Diversity Survey coming soon

The Commission on Economic Inclusion’s annual Employers Survey on DiversityTM will be distributed in early December.

In the coming weeks, Commission staff will verify point-of-contact information for its member organizations in preparation for the electronic distribution of the 2015 survey link as well as the 2014 survey form for each organization to be used as a reference.

The survey is an important tool to track the progress of employers in our region in four areas: board, senior management, workforce and supplier diversity.

If you have any changes in the contacts at your organization, or have any other survey-related questions, please contact Scott Harrington at or 216.592.2213.

To learn more about Commission membership and how it can help your organization create diversity and inclusion strategies to boost your bottom line and increase your competitiveness, email Gina Chevarine or call 216.592.2261.

About the survey

Results are only reported to the community in aggregate. Individual submissions, while always remaining confidential, are used to select the Commission 50 and Best-in-Class award winners.

Best-in-Class organizations receive recognition at the Annual Meeting of the Commission’s parent organization—the Greater Cleveland Partnership—an event attended by approximately 1,200 business leaders.

Award winners also are featured in the Commission Annual Report and receive online and social media recognition.

In addition, participating organizations will receive:

An aggregate report of the survey results with both regional and national diversity and inclusion benchmark data.

A confidential individual score card useful for monitoring your organization’s progress on diversity and inclusion outcomes. The scorecard includes comparison data with a five-year trend analysis.

Rating outlook improves on airport revenue bonds

Fitch Ratings has upgraded its outlook of the Cleveland Airport System’s revenue bonds.

In a news release, the ratings agency affirmed a “BBB+” rating on $724.2 million of Cleveland’s airport system revenue bonds and revised its rating outlook on the system to “stable” from “negative.”

Fitch said the outlook upgrade “is a result of a stabilization and solid rebound in enplanements following 16 months of enplanement declines due to United sharply reducing its flight operations at Cleveland (Hopkins International Airport) starting in mid-2014.”

Enplanements “have grown at an average monthly year-over-year rate of 15 percent between May-September 2015 and are on track to finish 2015 with positive growth in the 5 percent range,” Fitch said.

It also said “the rating reflects a midsize airport market with uneven traffic performance, high average airline costs, and leverage offset by modest capital requirements, sound liquidity and stable coverage metrics.

“The recent shift to a regional origination/destination (O&D) airport has been supported by the entrance of low-cost carriers, which has helped diversify the carrier options as the airport has shifted from 68 percent United in 2013 to only 31 percent today.”

Click to read more in the press release.

RTA General Manager honored as “Public Official of the Year"

Joe Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), has been named one of nine of Governing magazine's “Public Officials of the Year.”

“Thanks to his efforts, Cleveland today has the best bus rapid transit system in the country,” writes the magazine in its December issue. “Since it first opened eight years ago, the city’s first BRT (the HealthLine) has spurred $6 billion in economic development along its nine-mile route.” Full story (link is external).

Calabrese is one of the first transit leaders in the country to work toward forging public/private partnerships. Under his leadership, RTA has become an integral player in Cleveland’s success in the city’s recent development boom and its resurgence to national prominence, as well as its travel and tourism industry."

Greater Cleveland Partnership President and CEO Joe Roman, notes that the connections provided by the HealthLine have been transformative.

“We now have a vital link between our central business district and University Circle, which is home to our city’s leading health-care and cultural institutions, as well as a major university campus,” said Roman. “This also has helped attract millions of dollars of private development and improvements along its route through the heart of our city.”

The Public Officials of the Year program is in its 24th year and honors the most outstanding leaders in state and local government who exemplify the ideals of public service.

Click to read the Governing magazine story.

Photo by David Kidd from

640,000 new job openings anticipated in Northeast Ohio
in next 10 years

Employment in our region is projected to be at 2.041 million workers by 2025, according to the quarterly Cleveland Plus Economic Review released last week by Team NEO.

Occupations with the most job openings through 2025 include healthcare, manufacturing, and sales and administration occupations. Statistics from the report include:

Sales and administration lead total job openings (new and replacement) with 155,000 projected openings, positions that cut across all industries. Other occupations projected to grow include healthcare with 85,000

The Northeast Ohio workforce is older than the U.S. as a whole but gaining ground in education. While the region’s workforce skews higher in the 45-and-older age group, the education level is increasing with 25 percent of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In addition, all of the economic indicators tracked in the report are trending up year-over-year.

  • Total employment is at 1.86M, up 17,000 jobs year-over-year from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015.
  • The region’s unemployment rate declined 1.4 percent. The Northeast Ohio unemployment rate averaged 6.2% in Q2 2015, down from 7.6% for the same time period in 2014.
  • All sectors see year-over-year growth with the services sector adding more than 10,000 workers from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, while construction gained 2,400 jobs year-over-year and manufacturing added more than 3,400 jobs over the same time period.

Click to read more.

Team NEO uses Moody’s and US Bureau of Labor Statistics data and Ohio’s Labor Marketing Information to aggregate regional figures.

Team NEO is part of the regional economic development system that the Greater Cleveland Partnership helped to create and continues to support.

Volunteers needed for 2016 Republican National Convention

Are you interested in volunteering for the 2016 Republican National Convention? Then add your name to the list!

A recent story notes that while about 3,000 people have signed up, the actual number of volunteers needed is 8,000.

The story says that “Host committee volunteers will work on nonpolitical tasks outside Quicken Loans Arena, the main convention venue. Assignments will include greeting convention visitors at airports, hotels and transportation locations, as well as helping people find their way around Cleveland.”

“Many volunteers can expect to work in downtown Cleveland, but they also could be assigned to any of the more than 100 hotels throughout the region that will house convention delegates. Volunteers will be trained, likely in May or June, on subjects including site-specific instructions, customer service and Cleveland landmarks.”

Click to learn more on the volunteer website and sign up by clicking the SIGN UP NOW button.

Please note:
Signing up does not guarantee a position. The official volunteer forms must be completed when registration opens.

Port of Cleveland teams with Flats Forward on Bike Boxes
along the Cuyahoga

The Port of Cleveland and Flats Forward are teaming to fund and install three Bike Boxes – repurposed metal shipping containers that provide covered parking for bicycles.

The three Bike Boxes will be placed near the Cuyahoga River, adding an additional focus on biking to a growing recreational destination for boaters, rowers, and visitors to the new entertainment venues in the Flats East Bank development.

“The Bike Boxes are a fun, bold way to encourage people to visit the Flats by bicycle and experience this unique neighborhood in a new way,” said Linda Sternheimer, development manager for the Port “More biking will also help to cut down on potential automobile congestion and parking issues, and make the neighborhood more bike-friendly.

Originally developed by LAND studio, Bike Boxes have popped up in many other Cleveland neighborhoods, from Edgewater Park to St. Clair - Superior and Ohio City.

The Port and Flats Forward worked jointly to secure 80 percent of the funding for the Flats Bike Boxes from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) via the Federal Highway Administration program. Flats Forward will provide the remaining 20 percent as match to NOACA’s funds for the project, which will cost a total of $30,000.

“The Port of Cleveland is committed to helping make our waterfronts more friendly, accessible, and attractive, and proud to partner with Flats Forward on this project,” said Port President and CEO Will Friedman.

“These Bike Boxes will get more people close to the water and into the revitalized Flats. And with our boom in shipping containers moving through our docks, we also love them creative reused.”