A Growth & Opportunity Approach to Economic Development
At the Fund for Our Economic Future, you hear a lot about Growth & Opportunity as a driving strategy and a key to strengthening Northeast Ohio’s economy. Sounds like a good thing, right? Who doesn’t like growth? Who wouldn’t want there to be more opportunity?
Now reread that first sentence and put the emphasis on the “&.” That’s the special part—and the most challenging. The problem is that just focusing on creating jobs is not enough, and can actually hurt a region. It may seem incongruous, but research shows that metros that experience big increases in job growth often also see increases in poverty, income disparity and even crime.
Strengthening and sustaining the Northeast Ohio economy requires a coordinated effort to 1) create more good-paying jobs with advancement potential, 2) better prepare residents for those jobs, and 3) improve access to those jobs. In other words, we must not only create jobs, we must consider, too, the job’s wage, who it goes to and where it is located. That’s Growth & Opportunity.
What does it look like in practice?
The Fund set out to answer that question in this recently released video (produced by Airhead Media of Cleveland). It illustrates what we know from research: Too many of our citizens have been left out of the region’s recovery. One in 20 Northeast Ohioans lives in an area of economic distress, where less than 65 percent of the working-age population is employed or looking for work, and where median household income is in the bottom quartile. These areas tend to be job-creation “deserts,” with residents isolated by limited access to reliable transportation and held back by lack of needed skills for the jobs that are available.
A key part of the Fund’s work centers on establishing a baseline understanding of how economic growth and opportunity are linked and why both are integral to supporting and strengthening the region’s recovery. Meaningful progress on Growth & Opportunity requires working collaboratively and across boundaries—organizational, geographic and political. It requires that public, private and civic leaders recognize the importance of Growth & Opportunity to economic vitality, and embrace the role they can play by building the principles of Growth & Opportunity into their own organizations’ goals and strategies.
For Forest City, Growth & Opportunity is about creating that much sought-after “rising tide” that truly lifts all boats. It’s about helping to foster an even stronger community that we continue to call home. Our involvement in the Fund is an extension of the tradition established by our founders of giving back, and a function of our belief that we in Northeast Ohio can accomplish so much more working together than we can separately.
The WorkAdvance pilot (in partnership with Towards Employment) highlighted in the video is just one example of the many efforts happening around the region to advance Growth & Opportunity. We certainly hope this will help encourage more.
Contact the Fund if you’d like to know more or get involved in Growth & Opportunity efforts happening in your community.
Jeff Linton is senior vice president, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, for Forest City Enterprises Inc. In his role, Linton has responsibility for communications planning and strategy, corporate identity and branding, issues management, investor relations, media relations, and internal communication. In addition, he is responsible for community relations, corporate philanthropy and the administration of FOCUS PAC, the company’s political action committee.Before joining Forest City in 2007, Linton was a managing director of Dix & Eaton, a nationally known public relations and investor relations consultancy, where he led the firm’s transaction communications practice.
Photo courtesy Airhead Media