Economic Development for a Resilient Local Economy

GOAL:

Grow our local economy by pursuing an economic development approach that prioritizes supporting locally owned businesses while also exploring development opportunities that align with our city’s value commitments and unique community dynamics.

Think of our local economy like a bathtub, the kind with jets that circulate water around, and the water is the capital in that economy. The faucet provides capital from outside the city, and the drain is where our money leaves our city. When we buy locally, we are running those jets and circulating that water around, and it stays in the tub. But it’s impossible for any resident to spend all of their money locally—our mortgage is paid to a bank in Delaware or our rent to a non-local landlord, or we go on vacation, and so on. In order for our local economy to sustain itself and grow, we need faucets that bring in more capital than is draining out.

For decades, economic development in our nation has focused on city governments subsidizing, through tax breaks and other incentives, large, profitable corporations to move in and provide jobs. And, yes, there is a community benefit to having, for example, some big-box stores in our city. Home Depot provides a one-stop-shop for almost any home and construction need a person may have, and it is a source of materials for local contractors. But it is also taking more local money in sales than it is paying in wages and local taxes—if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be profitable, and Home Depot would close the location. Therefore, from a local economic development perspective, prioritizing investment in non–locally owned businesses is a recipe for slowly draining our local economy.

Here in Cleveland Heights, we need to make sure we stay focused on supporting local businesses, particularly businesses that bring in capital from outside the community. Whether it’s restaurants that gain a regional reputation, professional services serving clients outside our community, or businesses that sell products far and wide, the more we help them grow and prosper, the more local people they are able to hire and the more capital they pull into our local economy.

And when these local-economy-growing businesses thrive, our smaller businesses—those whose customer base is almost entirely local—will thrive as well. And the stronger they become, the more they will attract customers from outside Cleveland Heights too.

But we need to also understand our local limitations. When it comes to large-scale development projects, such as Severance Center, we will need to forge partnerships with developers. However, we must always be sure to seek out developers capable of delivering projects that fit our community’s goals, aesthetics, and values. We will develop project parameters and objectives through close coordination with our residents, particularly surrounding neighborhoods, as well as our local business owners to ensure that any large-scale development investment meets our unique needs.

Further, when we build a robust local economy driven by a diverse ecosystem of locally owned businesses, our economy will be more resilient and better able to weather national economic fluctuations. We will be contributing more to our public revenue, which in turn will result in improved and expanded public services. This will make our city an all-around better place to live, and we will attract new residents and see our property values rise.

How We Must Support Our Local Businesses to Help Them Grow

  • Reach out to all locally owned businesses in Cleveland Heights and gather feedback about what they need from the city government to help them thrive.
  • Focus economic development work on low-cost, high-return services for our local businesses, such as:
    • aggressively promoting our local business community,
    • actively seeking connections for local entrepreneurs to help them connect to investors and resources to build success, and
    • acting as a research and analysis department for our small businesses, providing information resources on topics such as optimal markets for their products or services as well as analysis of their field of business competitors.
  • Explore ways to protect and improve optimal public infrastructure necessary for small businesses, such as transportation and internet.
  • Support the formation of a Cleveland Heights Business Council that will serve to:
    • articulate needs to the local government,
    • speak with a unified voice on behalf of our local businesses,
    • create pathways for mentorship and networking within the local business community, and
    • innovate solutions for local economic challenges.