Cleveland is one of five U.S. cities chosen to receive millions of dollars to fund a new economic initiative aimed at alleviating poverty and reclaiming abandoned property.
The nearly 15 million dollar grant to Cleveland comes from Living Cities, a collaboration between 21 of the world's largest philanthropies and financial institutions. The aim is to create co-op businesses in the University Circle and mid-town areas that will provide services to three of the city's bedrock institutions - Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University - and where all employees have a stake in the business beyond simply take-home wages: they acquire equity.
Two such cooperatives already exist: Evergreen Laundry Cooperative and Ohio Cooperative Solar. A third, Green City Growers, an urban farm cooperative, is still in development.
Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, says the idea is to build a civic strategy that involves many sectors working to together.
HECHT: "...including the public sector, including the private sector, including us, including non-profits, and the community organizations that the city of Cleveland is so strong in," Hecht says. "So this becomes an actual intentional strategy for the short and longer term revitalization and re-imagining of the local economy."
That's just part of the plan. It also includes attracting already existing businesses that also provide services to those University Circle institutions to locate on land that's currently abandoned.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson sums the strategy up this way:
JACKSON: "You have existing businesses, and then you also have the establishment of these co-ops, and them partnershipping and working together helps to keep those dollars in the community, create wealth, keep people employed, and sustain businesses."
Cleveland was chosen, along with Detroit, Newark, Baltimore and Minneapolis-St. Paul, to share a total of 85 million dollars. Cleveland's application was initiated by the Cleveland Foundation.