Jun 15

GCP President and CEO Joe Roman sat down with Bill Wills on WTAM to talk about some exciting programs in the Cleveland community.

The conversation started off with the just-announced Cleveland Innovation Project, an initiative that will prompt our region to focus energy into the most cutting edge endeavors in an effort to be on the global forefront of innovation. Joe gave a couple examples of the many ways in which we could do this going forward, such as commercialization and the creation of new companies. GCP is working with JumpStart, Team NEO, Fund for Our Economic Future and the Cleveland Foundation to run the program, and they will involve a plethora of others to help develop and reach specific goals. As Joe said in the interview with Bill, "We need to see what's next, and we need to bring the whole community around it."

The next topic of discussion was GCP and CDA's socially-focused loan fund, which will leverage $50 million to catalyze Opportunity Zone investments. The fund will, in essence, provide low-interest loans to various neighborhood projects. These loans will go a long way toward attracting new businesses and real estate developers, thus making the communities they move into more and more vibrant. The resulting developments will provide more spaces to live, work and play, which will enrich the areas even further.

The next topic was Cuyahoga County's impending ban on plastic bags. Prior to the ban being passed, the GCP Advocacy Team asked the Cuyahoga County Council to delay any kind of restrictions on the use of plastic bags until more research into the issue could be conducted. There is no data, as of yet, that suggests paper bags are truly better for the environment than plastic bags. What we do know, and what business owners are all too aware of, is that paper bags are far more expensive to businesses. A ban on plastic bags would be misguided without the research to support its merit, and it would make our county less competitive as our retailers reluctantly raise prices to cover the cost of paper bags. The Ohio House will soon vote on a bill that would override Cuyahoga County's ban on plastic bags, and GCP has already submitted written testimony to ensure our region's business owners are heard.

Joe and Bill's conversation transitioned to the Paradox Prize. There are capable individuals in Northeast Ohio who cannot hold a job, simply because of the difficulty of commuting without a car. This is the transportation paradox - no car, no job; no job, no car. Our current public transportation system, as Joe put it, is "no longer sufficient." The ability to take a rail line from the airport to downtown and farther east is a tremendous asset; we are the only city in Ohio with that luxury. Even so, we need to connect other areas more effectively. The Paradox Prize is accepting submissions of ideas for how to combat the transportation paradox, and it will provide up to 15 pilot solutions with $1 million of collective support.

The interview ended with a brief mention of Third Frontier, which is just about out of money. Third Frontier kickstarts promising tech startups, attracts innovative minds and has helped make a name for Cleveland when it comes to being friendly with tech inventors and investors. GCP plans to work with Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted to acquire funding for the program for 2020.

Listen to the full interview.