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Cleveland's Economic Development: Investment in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Dividends

Diversity management is paying dividends in Cleveland's economic development, where the Greater Cleveland Partnership and regional companies including hospitals, colleges and utilities invested in underserved communities.

Diversity management is paying dividends in Cleveland, where a focus on diversity and inclusion is driving economic development. The Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and regional companies including hospitals, colleges and utilities invested in underserved communities.

Read "Cleveland's Economic Development: Investment in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Dividends" in the DiversityInc digital issue.

* This is an advertorial.

Not many cities can say they're better off after the recession than they were before. Cleveland is a notable exception, thanks to focused diversity management. Despite the economic turmoil of recent years, the GCP and its members have been taking the economic development to the next level by promoting diversity and inclusion and economic investment in the region's underserved communities.

The city of Cleveland itself is more than half (53.3 percent) Black and 10 percent Latino. Leveraging this diversity through diversity management is key to Cleveland's economic success. In 2010, Ohio had the fifth fastest growing economy of any state. And local manufacturing output is expected to grow nearly 30 percent by 2015, outpacing the nation by almost 10 percentage points. It's clear that the greater Cleveland area is poised for continued economic growth. Recognizing the region's economic-development potential, the GCP and its Commission on Economic Inclusion are committed to making sure that traditionally underrepresented groups help fuel continued growth.

Along with the more than 100 corporate members—including KeyCorp (one of DiversityInc's 25 Noteworthy Companies and headed by the first woman CEO of a major bank), Cuyahoga Community College, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Cleveland Public Library, MetroHealth, the Cleveland Clinic (one of the DiversityInc Top 5 Hospital Systems), Forest City Enterprises, University Hospitals (one of the DiversityInc Top 5 Hospital Systems), Mercy Health Partners, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Cleveland State University—the GCP acts as a community anchor.

Cleveland Economic Development: Community-Focused Healthcare Through Diversity & Inclusion

An impressive array of community-outreach programs focused on health, education and cultural competency is the backbone of these organizations' strategies forCleveland's urban renewal and economic development. Community health centers are often the base for outreach programs. The idea is to target Cleveland's traditionally underserved groups where they live and work.

MetroHealth is catering to the region's population with 16 specialized Cleveland community health centers, including the Asia Town Clinic, the Pride Clinic (serving the LGBT community), the Latina Clinic and a Senior Health and Wellness Center. The healthcare system also launched Partners in Care, a program that offers comprehensive treatment to the uninsured. Download a PDF of MetroHealth's diversity report.

Winnell Mason, MetroHealth's director of diversity, calls this community-based model a "team approach" to healthcare. And it's working. The program has documented 35 percent fewer hospitalizations for its enrollees, while reducing costs. In 2011, MetroHealth made substantial efforts to better serve Cleveland's growing Latino population, adding bilingual staff to its call center. To date, nearly 30,000 calls have been fielded in Spanish. The organization also launched a bilingual newsletter and an annual family day with free health screenings for the Latino community.

The Cleveland Clinic is also reducing barriers to healthcare through diversity-and-inclusion management with its Minority Men's Health Center. Established in 2004, the center provides direct care, education and outreach primarily to Black men suffering from prostate cancer and kidney disease. "It continues to be one of the first and only programs of its kind committed to providing comprehensive, culturally sensitive health access, treatment and education to minority men," says center director and Cleveland Clinic urologist Dr. Charles Modlin. "It is all about eliminating healthcare disparities."

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the center's Minority Men's Health Fair has provided more than 5,000 health screenings to men in the region. In addition, the clinic sponsors annual health fairs that target Black women and Latinos and has a presence at Cleveland's cultural events including the Puerto Rican Parade and the Cleveland Asian Festival. Spanish courses for physicians are offered on campus to improve patient relations.

For the past six years, Mercy's Health Partners' Rising Stars Program has worked with the Lorain County Urban League to expose Cleveland's high-school students from traditionally underrepresented groups to careers in healthcare. "Our goal is to create the next generation of healthcare leaders for our community," says Sascha Chatman, Mercy's regional diversity officer. With its Parish Nursing Programs, Mercy teams up with predominantly Black and Latino churches to provide education, outreach and health screenings. They also partner with the Urban League to educate at-risk men about diabetes in a program called Save Our Sons.

Watch: DiversityInc Innovation Fest! Presentation by WellPoint, Empire BlueCross BlueShield: Community Ambassador Program

Educating the Community

Educational programs also offer an important arena for Cleveland's outreach and diversity management, as well as future economic development. As a community hub, the Cleveland Public Library is a public space for cross-cultural connections. "We share in the vision of a sustainable Cleveland transformed by the collective impact of determined people and organizations working together," says Madeline Corchado, the library's director of human resources. "Our role in this transformation is the work we do at the center of the city's culture of learning."

That role as an educational center is substantial. The library is on target to reach its goal of doubling the number of computers available to the public in 2012. A state-of-the art computer lab is slated to open at the downtown branch in May, offering access to cutting-edge equipment and a variety of technology classes. The library also encourages small businesses to sponsor and host branch events.

"It's transforming library programs into networking events where there is a free exchange of practical business information that directly speaks to the needs of our community," says Corchado. One of the most tangible outreach efforts is the Bookmobile, a 32-foot full-service mobile library that visits all of Cleveland's neighborhoods year-round. Demand for the program is strong: Participation in the Bookmobile was up 500 percent in 2010.

KeyBank is also dedicated to reaching out to community members where they live and work. Many of the bank's outreach efforts revolve around financial education through the Underserved Initiative Program. "As a core component of our underserved strategy, this investment assists individuals in becoming better educated about their options to improve their financial capabilities," says Poppie Parish, Key's client education manager. "More than 400 KeyBank employees volunteer as financial educators in their communities."

For example, Super Refund Saturday, a volunteer event in Cleveland, processes low-income residents' tax refunds without charge. More than 20,000 people have received free financial services and education. These financial-literacy programs empower Cleveland's traditionally underserved populations to manage money and achieve goals such as homeownership and college education, ultimately, improving the potential for economic growth in the region.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is also committed to financial education in the community. Its Learning Center and Money Museum features 30 free interactive exhibits. Modeled on state educational benchmarks, the museum's programs book seven months in advance. The Cleveland Fed Mentor Program offers educational and networking programs to a predominantly Black high school in East Cleveland. Bank leaders meet with traditionally underserved students to share career advice in the Leadership Dialogue Series. Last spring, the bank inserted a financial-literacy workbook for kids in a regional Black newspaper.

The Cleveland Fed has distributed more than 320,000 copies of the pamphlet, available in both English and Spanish, to families, schools and community groups in the last several years. "We have developed programs to assist students, including those in underserved communities, in building critical-thinking skills, an attribute that complements financial literacy," says Diana Starks, assistant vice president in the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.

Read: Rutgers Future Scholars Enhances Talent Pipelines With Corporate-Student Outreach

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) places an emphasis on cultural literacy, offering an array of programs to celebrate its diverse student body. Tri-C is the first community college in the nation to join the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, a student-led initiative promoting diversity and inclusion on campus through weekly public dialogues.

"Sustained dialogue equips the next generation of leaders with tools to effect change in schools, workplaces and communities," says Judi McMullen, vice president of human resources at Cuyahoga Community College.

Its Workforce and Economic Development Division also recruits Blacks, Latinos and Asians for fast-track programs, which provide career training, interview skills and job-placement assistance. The Economic Development Division has a goal of placing 80 percent of program graduates with jobs.

Cleveland State University (CSU) sees its diverse student body as an extension of the local community. "The contribution that CSU is making is actually educating the future workforce," says Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm, the university's vice president for institutional diversity. "We know what the demographics are … and we're going to see even greater diversity" and inclusion.

CSU provides social, cultural and academic support for students from a variety of backgrounds through initiatives such as the African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American Peer Mentoring Program (AHANA). As a result of programs like this, the university has "significantly boosted minority student retention through aggressive multicultural mentoring," according to its 2010 Diversity Action Plan.

"So many are first-generation college-goers who have a parent who is pushing them to do better than they achieved," says Dr. Nuru-Holm. "We are able to motivate students beyond what they can even see."

First-Generation College-Goers: Cleveland Diversity & Inclusion

Across the university, there are more than 50 scholarships aimed at traditionally underrepresented students. Events including multicultural seminars, an annual diversity conference and the Minority Career Fair, which drew 150 area employers this year, reinforce commitment to an increasingly diverse student body.

With a service area that spans 62 local communities, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) also sees its future workforce in today's students.

"Student programs are a huge part of our community outreach," says Kim Jones, community relations manager at NEORSD. Through a series of scholarships geared toward students from underrepresented groups, NEORSD seeks students that represent the community in order "to stimulate their interest in technical or scientific careers and perhaps an eventual career here at the sewer district." The district has hired several scholarship recipients and pipeline-program graduates as full-time employees.

Diversity Management: Coordinating the Effort for Cleveland's Economic Development

None of these community programs would be possible without first reaching out to local businesses to emphasize the importance of diversity management and inclusion in driving economic change. The Greater Cleveland Partnership's Commission on Economic Inclusion has a number of programs including regular CEO briefings and a conference for diversity professionals to address issues of inclusion in the regional economy.

In an effort to bring corporate leaders to the table and familiarize them with the commission's work, Cleveland real-estate company Forest City Enterprises partnered with Cleveland-based national law firm Thompson Hine to sponsor a series of Senior Executive Forums. Here, business leaders learn about the commission's annual Employers Survey on Diversity, and they talk about ways to improve outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups. Three forums have taken place already, with an average of 90 C-level executives attending—and two more are slated for this year.

"It's exciting because it really has started to build momentum," says Charmaine Brown, director of diversity and inclusion at Forest City. "It has really touched those folks who truly have to do the work within the organization. It's operationalizing diversity."

The Greater Cleveland Partnership sees these forums as a vital exchange of ideas for diversity management and inclusion and a bridge toward cultural understanding. Other initiatives include the Boardroom-to-Boardroom program, co-sponsored by The Presidents' Council, an association of Black business owners. These sessions bring together CEOs of different backgrounds to discuss the challenges faced by businesses owned by Blacks and Latinos.

"Diverse teams produce greater outcomes," says Deborah Bridwell, senior director of inclusion initiatives at the Greater Cleveland Partnership. "Practicing cultural competency within our employers directly supports the region's efforts to stay competitive."

Financial Investment in Cleveland's Diversity & Inclusion: Economic Development

Many area businesses have committed to spending dollars locally, providing a much-needed shot in the arm to area firms, many of them minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBEs and WBEs). Last year marked the grand opening of the Minority Business Center, operated by the Minority Business Development Agency. One of about 30 nationwide, the center came to Cleveland with the help of the GCP and its partners, including the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE); JumpStart; the Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Northern Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council; Team NEO; and the WECO Fund.

The Commission's Minority Business Accelerator 2.5+ will support the efforts of the new center. Made possible by financial support from the Fund for Our Economic Future, Jones Day and the Cleveland Foundation, the accelerator will focus on growing the size and scale of Black- and Latino-owned enterprises. Since its inception in 2008, the Minority Business Accelerator 2.5+ has brokered a total of 182 deals with Black- and Latino-owned businesses valued at $142 million and creating nearly 400 jobs.

"The Commission focuses on strengthening the regional economy by strengthening all businesses," says Andrew Jackson, senior vice president and executive director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion. "MBEs hire MBEs, and the growth of minority businesses of all sizes increases competitiveness and attractiveness of the region." With the help of corporate sponsors KeyBank, PNC Bank and the Cleveland Foundation, the GCP also administers the Working Capital Loan Fund. The fund provides collateral to Black- and Latino-owned businesses in Northeast Ohio to help them secure lines of credit.

Greater Cleveland Partnership's corporate members are rebuilding Cleveland's economic development, giving special attention to neighborhoods that have been traditionally ignored. "At Key, the most significant investment we make is in our communities," says Chairman and CEO Beth Mooney. "Our deep commitments to diversity and community drive our strategy of helping to strengthen lower-income and underserved communities."

The first of the nation's largest banks to earn seven consecutive "outstanding" ratings for its lending under the Community Reinvestment Act, KeyBank takes its role as a local lender seriously. The Key Community Development Corporation provides loans for affordable housing, businesses in low-income areas and community services. Currently, KeyBank has more than $2.2 billion invested in underserved communities.

"Our philanthropic efforts follow a strategic plan to provide grants in three areas that foster economic self-sufficiency in the communities we serve," says Margot Copeland, chair of the KeyBank Foundation. Over the last three years, the foundation has given more than $54 million to nonprofits nationwide to support financial education, economic development, workforce development and workforce diversity and inclusion.

University Hospitals is an active player in downtown Cleveland's renaissance. As an active participant in the Cleveland Foundation's Greater University Circle initiative, the healthcare system and its partners have invested $14.5 million in real estate, small-business loans and housing incentives around the University Hospitals Case Medical Center. University Hospitals also gave $1 million to the NewBridge Cleveland Center for the Arts, a nonprofit that prepares adults for careers in healthcare. Ohio's Latino newspaper, La Prensa, called the center "a shimmering beacon of hope in downtown Cleveland."

Another major player in the regional economy, the Cleveland Clinic has deep pockets when it comes to supporting residents. Much of the clinic's community investment is providing care to those who cannot afford it. The clinic spends roughly $350 million in the community annually, including $92 million in charity care, free health screenings and patient education forums.

Forest City Enterprises also has a robust charitable-giving program. Twenty-two percent of the dollars it donates to the United Way go directly to organizations that focus on traditionally underrepresented groups, including LGBT people and people with disabilities. Forest City also actively supports community organizations such as Plexus, Cleveland's LGBT chamber of commerce.

Cleveland Emphasis on Supplier Diversity for Economic Development 

The members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership share a commitment to supplier diversity. Responding to increases in enrollment, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) is in the midst of a massive, 10-year expansion plan that will grow the college by 30 percent. And the college has committed to spending 15 percent of its construction budget with minority-owned business. Tri-C is on target to reach that goal thanks to a series of networking programs including a Construction Diversity Outreach event.

"Despite the economic downturn, the college has been committed to providing equitable and fair procurement and construction opportunities to a broadly diverse group of suppliers," says Tri-C's McMullen. "They bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values, and beliefs as assets to the college's commitment to serve its community."

Tri-C also has contracted with Minority Business Solutions to track supplier diversity, recruit new vendors and verify MWBE certifications. And a newly formed Supplier Diversity Advisory Committee is helping the college to tap vendors for advice on how to improve its outreach efforts.

Cleveland State University's goal is to spend 15 percent of its annual procurement budget with minority-owned businesses. "For the first time," says Dr. Nuru-Holm, "we have a percentage of our investment portfolio managed by an MBE." Dr. Nuru-Holm credits this to Stephanie McHenry, the university's new vice president for business affairs and finance. "As a Black female, she brings a special perspective and voice to the table."

KeyBank also has worked to diversify its supply chain. The company has met its supplier-diversity goals for six years in a row and has exceeded its goals of 15 percent spent with MWBEs for the last two years. That's more than twice the amount the average company spends with traditionally underrepresented vendors. As the first female executive at a top-20 bank, Mooney is committed to women's promotions through the Key4Women program, which offers resources and networking opportunities for women in business.

Since the program began in 2005, Key has lent more than $6 billion to women business owners. Read Diversity Management: When Will There Be More Women CEOs? for more on women in management.

After launching an ambitious supplier-diversity program in 2009, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland increased its annual spend with MWBEs from less than 2 percent to 11 percent in 2011 (8.6 percent with women-owned businesses and 2.4 percent with minority-owned businesses). The bank also changed its procurement policy to require that at least one MWBE be considered for all contracts greater than $10,000. "A lot of growth in the economy comes from small businesses, and minority small businesses are an important part of that fabric," says Sandra Pianalto, president and CEO at the Cleveland Federal Reserve.

In 2009, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) spent 12 percent of its regional budget with MWBEs, also more than double the amount spent by its peer organizations, according to the GCP. Its $8-million investment included roughly $30,000 in advertising specifically designed to recruit MWBEs. After investing half a million dollars in a comprehensive disparity study in 2009, the district launched the Business Opportunity Program to make improvements in strategic sourcing. Today, 26 percent of the District's 827 certified firms are women-owned enterprises and 30 percent are minority-owned enterprises.

NEORSD has steadily increased its spend with such firms over the past few years. The district spent $13.3 million with MBEs last year, up 25 percent from 2010, and $12.2 million with women-owned business enterprises, up 72 percent from 2010. NEORSD's Jones notes that these suppliers mirror the district's client base. "The business case is addressed by including the perspectives and opinions of all of our employees so we are better able to communicate with our customers," she says.

For more on supplier diversity best practices, read DiversityInc Innovation Fest! Presentation by AT&T: Power Up! Training for Suppliers.

Healthcare Industry's Importance in Cleveland's Economic Development

Recognizing the impact the healthcare industry has on the local economy, the Greater Cleveland Partnership is working with the Center for Health Affairs, the largest group-purchasing organization in the region. "The commission is currently collaborating on a single-source listing of local and minority vendors to be accessed by all of their hospital members in the region," says Jackson. MWBEs have a lot to gain from contracts with the area's healthcare operators. University Hospitals recently completed a $1.2-billion strategic plan with an eye toward boosting the local economy and working with firms that reflect the region's diverse demographics.

"A first in Northeast Ohio, two of the top positions in construction services at UH were held by African-American female architects," says Donnie Perkins, vice president for diversity and inclusion at University Hospitals. Roughly 90 percent of the companies that received contracts were based locally and more than 30 percent are minority- or women-owned businesses. "The impact is huge," says Steven D. Standley, University Hospitals' chief administrative officer. "Every dollar we spend with a local firm gets spent again and again in Cleveland."

Last year, 21 percent of the Cleveland Clinic's construction dollars went to MWBE contractors, and the sourcing department is using a new online system to track and communicate with vendors from various backgrounds. "We recognize that incorporating diversity reinforces our commitment to the community and strengthens our position as a good community citizen," says Le Joyce Naylor, the clinic's executive director of diversity and inclusion. "This work is core to Cleveland Clinic's commitment to the economic vitality of Northeast Ohio."

Similarly, Mercy Health Partners has committed to spending 10 percent to 15 percent of its annual budget with MWBEs by 2014. They've also set a goal to spend 25 percent of their construction budget with women- and minority-owned firms. In April, Humility of Mary Health Partners and Mercy-Lorain Hospital planned to host the Northeast Ohio Healthcare Supplier Diversity Event to reach out to local suppliers and build new partnerships. "Our primary goal is to identify companies that can support our efforts in increasing our diverse spend," says Mercy's Chatman. "We believe that being inclusive will lead to more productive partnerships in the community and help grow our local economy."

These companies aren't alone in their dedication to supplier diversity. Overall, companies in Northeast Ohio increased their spend with MBEs by 33 percent between 2010 and 2011 (from $339 million to $450 million); nationally, supplier-diversity spend increased by 21 percent during the same period, from $2.23 billion to $2.71 billion. "The inclusion of MWBEs is vital to the future of the region," says Perkins. "It's an investment in taking care of the community you serve."

Read: Roadmap for Hospitals: Culturally Competent Patient Care

Cultivating an Inclusive Workforce With Diversity & Inclusion

Part of championing diversity and inclusion in Cleveland means developing an inclusive workforce by emphasizing cultural competence. "Building cultural-competency skills in business leaders, managers and supervisors directly supports the attraction and retention of diverse talent," says Bridwell.

Job recruitment is picking up in Cleveland and is stronger than it was pre-recession. In February, the city posted a 16 percent jump in managerial hiring activity, according to the JobSerf Employment Index. And the GCP's members are working to ensure that their employees reflect the demographics of the community. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and American Indians make up 30 percent of Tri-C's employees and are 36 percent of the college's new hires.

Watch: Diversity Web Seminar: Recruitment/Hiring Gaps

"The more diverse the faculty and staff of Tri-C, the more likely all students will be exposed to a wider range of scholarly perspectives drawn from a variety of life experience," says Andre Burton, the college's director of diversity and inclusion. "This better prepares students to succeed in an increasingly global marketplace."

Fifteen percent of Forest City Enterprises' employees in the region come from traditionally underrepresented groups. The real-estate company worked hard to bring a training program for Black professionals to Cleveland. Beginning this fall, the Real Estate Associate Program (REAP) will present a 13-week curriculum taught by industry leaders. "It's consistently opening up those doors that quite truthfully have not been as readily available to minority professionals in the commercial real-estate industry," says Forest City Enterprises' Brown. She adds that in addition to building skills, the potential for networking and business contacts is promising.

At MetroHealth, 29 percent of the employees and 19 percent of physicians are Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian. Since 2009, MetroHealth has partnered with El Barrio, a workforce-development center run by the West Side Ecumenical Ministry to provide a monthly seminar on healthcare careers. "El Barrio provides a great pipeline of talent at MetroHealth," says Mason.

Read: Increasing Diversity in Talent Development

A unique series of pipeline programs helps the Cleveland Clinic recruit talent from underrepresented groups. The Charles R. Drew Saturday Academy is a 12-week program designed to empower traditionally underrepresented high-school students to pursue careers in the sciences. In its fifth year, the program provides mentorship, hands-on learning and career advice for Black, Latino and Asian students. Other programs, including the Northeast Ohio Research Education Medicine Alliance and the Young Business Leaders Internship Program, provide similar resources for minorities who may not otherwise have access to healthcare careers.

"The programs offer structured educational enrichment experiences and mentoring designed to foster student achievement in higher education," says Rosalind Strickland, senior director of the clinic's Office of Civic Education Initiatives.

At Cleveland State University, diversity is a way of life: 40 percent of students are Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian, nearly 60 percent are female and 20 percent of the faculty is Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian—the largest percentage in the state. The university has been named a top producer of Black master's graduates by Diverse Issues in Higher Education for 20 consecutive years. Students' exposure to the university melting pot is an asset in the working world.

"Employers are seeking individuals who can work on and lead a diverse team," says Dr. Nuru-Holm. "You can't attend CSU and be successful without engaging with diverse individuals." Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) increased the percentage of Blacks, Asians and Latinos in its summer internship program by 73 percent (from 11 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2011).

Overall, 23 percent of the bank's new hires in 2011 were from traditionally underrepresented groups, up from 18 percent in 2009. In 2011, FRB Cleveland wrapped up a three-year diversity-awareness training for all employees. The same year, the Federal Reserve announced the creation of diversity and inclusion offices in each of its 12 branches.

According to the bank's annual report to Congress, "the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion is poised to develop, implement and monitor standards related to workforce diversity and the inclusion and utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses in FRB Cleveland programs and contracts."

About 27 percent of employees at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District are Black, Latino or Asian. After an extensive in-house diversity and inclusion survey, the district has established goals to build cultural competency through diversity management. They've expanded their nondiscrimination statement to include LGBT people, hosted a series of diversity dialogue sessions, launched resource groups and implemented mandatory diversity training. So far, more than 70 percent of employees have been trained.

Cleveland: Diversity & Inclusion From the Top Down

Companies also are keeping an eye on the makeup of their senior leadership. The Commission on Economic Inclusion teamed up with Business Volunteers Unlimited to create a Board Minority Pipeline Initiative focused on increasing the number of Black, Latino and American Indian professionals on corporate boards.

KeyCorp also has committed to diversity in the C-suite. In 2010, 15 percent of the company's upper management was Black, Latino or Asian, nearly double the rate of its peer groups. "We actively recruit new employees from historically Black colleges and universities, as well as from schools with highly diverse student populations," says Johnni Beckel, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Key. "We also network in our communities to identify diverse new talent."

Mercy Health Partners has more than doubled the percentage of Blacks, Latinos and Asians on its senior leadership team (from 4.2 percent to 9.3 percent) in the last year. In an effort to promote diversity management in senior leadership, Mercy's goal is to have a candidate from a traditionally underrepresented group in at least 60 percent of its executive searches. This year marked the launch of the Mercy Minority Mentoring Program, which offers access to training and networking opportunities for employees to move ahead in the company. "We firmly believe that we need to grow our own people in order to continue to retain them," says Chatman.

Read: Mentoring Roundtable: How Mentoring Improves Retention, Engagement & Promotions

When companies support diversity financially and through their hiring practices and corporate culture, the results reverberate throughout the regional economy. Women- and minority-owned enterprises are an important part of the community, and their economic vitality contributes to Cleveland's impressive turnaround. It's a matter of seeing the region's changing demographics as an asset and a tool for economic renewal.

"Leveraging the power of our differences serves as a catalyst for delivering value and quality in all we do," says Cleveland Public Library's Corchado. "Leveraging our differences is our way of doing business." And business is booming, thanks to diversity management and the efforts of the Greater Cleveland Partnership and its members to include all groups in the region's revitalization.

"Whether it's healthcare or higher education, the objective is to have an environment that leverages all of the organization's talents," says Perkins of University Hospitals. "It promotes innovation, creativity and equity for everyone, particularly those that have been underrepresented for so long."

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