Diversity Drives Cleveland's Economic Development, Recovery

Find out how a collaborative network of committed diversity-and-inclusion leaders is fueling this Northeast Ohio region's turnaround and driving Cleveland's economic development.

Once known as a "rust-belt" region, Greater Cleveland is on the cusp of economic recovery—thanks, in part, to the collaborative efforts of local organizations to recruit, retain, promote and open contracting bids to people of all ages and abilities, races and religions. Headquartered within an eight-county area in northeast Ohio, a coalition of diversity-management leaders—led by the economic-development group Greater Cleveland Partnership—is bringing wealth to underserved communities as the region experiences a post-recession renaissance.

Read Diversity Drives Cleveland's Economic Development in the digital issue of DiversityInc magazine.

A recent Brookings Institute report found Cleveland is on the road to resurgence, ranking 10th among 50 U.S. metro areas. That's because of its diversification from a primarily industrial base to "new economy" sectors, such as healthcare, biosciences and high-tech industries. Based on annual employment growth and per-capita income, the study found Cleveland's income jumped 4.1 percent from 2009 to 2010 compared with pre-recession years (1993–2007).

What's prompting change in the city of Cleveland (population 430,000) and surrounding areas? One factor is the leadership commitment to provide opportunities for all, including the nearly 60 percent Black and Latino population in the metro area (Census Bureau), as the Cleveland Group Plan Commission rolls out an aggressive revitalization plan that includes a new 100,000-square-foot Cleveland Medical Mart and adjoining 230,000-square-foot convention center, a $700-million downtown casino and more.

Cleveland Economic Development: Build It and Jobs Will Come

Cleveland's capital-improvement projects and the area's low cost of living (almost 4 percent less than the national average, reports Greater Cleveland Partnership are spurring jobs and attracting businesses and "creative" thinkers from major metro areas such as New York. When coupled with the leadership commitment to diversity and the investment in emerging sectors, Cleveland is poised for potential growth.

A welcoming environment and opportunity to make a significant difference lured Dr. Marilyn Sanders Mobley back to Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), where she earned her Ph.D. in English. Three years ago, she was among 136 applying for CWRU's vice president for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, and was appointed by President Barbara R. Snyder, who sits on Greater Cleveland Partnership's board, to the elevated, cabinet-level position.

"I saw it as an opportunity to do diversity the right way," says Mobley, adding that the number of Blacks, Latinos and other underrepresented undergrads at CWRU rose four percentage points over the past year. "Had the job reported to HR, I wouldn't have taken it."

Since coming on board a year ago, she has built a robust diversity program, thanks to Greater Cleveland Partnership's guidance and recognition, including the formation of a diversity-leadership council and supplier-diversity initiative council; launching a faculty diversity-awareness lecture series sponsored by local corporations such as KeyCorp rolling out a pipeline initiative with John Hay High School that provides a free ride to qualifying underrepresented students who strive to go to medical school; and working one-on-one with multicultural student groups "to make the university a more welcoming environment." Soon to come: a train-the-diversity-champion program, which includes an LGBT-inclusive SafeZone component, and CWRU's strategic diversity-action plan.

"Inclusive excellence is the key to remaining competitive, not only in our field of higher education but also in creating the kind of workplace environment where individuals can thrive and develop their full potential in the Greater Cleveland business community as contributors and change agents," she says.

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, who took office five years ago, also returned to the city after serving in the U.S. Army. Now, under Jackson's leadership and with input from thousands of Clevelanders, the "Connecting Cleveland 2020 Citywide Plan" has been created to serve as a regional blueprint.

It calls to improve the quality of life in Cleveland's 36 neighborhoods and lays out targeted strategies that include diversity. The plan "proposes that the city fully embrace its diversity, cultivate it, nurture it and market it as a key element of its revitalization strategy," the report states.

Power in Numbers: Cleveland's Diversity & Inclusion Creates Economic Development

Greater Cleveland Partnership built a unique all-volunteer program in 2000 called the Commission on Economic Inclusion, a broad-based coalition of more than 100 northeast Ohio employers committed to making the region's diversity a source of economic strength. The organization boasts a combined member workforce of nearly 200,000 in northeast Ohio and more than 575,000 employees throughout the United States. Its goals include:

1. Supplier Diversity

Growing regional minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs) through access to capital, workshops and a business matchmaking program that has secured more than 54 deals, worth $131.6 million.

2. Workforce Recruitment

Increasing access to well-paying jobs for all through, among other initiatives, the Diversity Professionals Group that meets quarterly to share metrics and other best practices.

3. Retention and Leadership Development 

Including more Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other underrepresented groups in senior management and board leadership roles by providing diversity training, seminars and conferences.

Through formalized relationships with member CEOs, chief diversity officers and C-suite executives "who make decisions," says Greater Cleveland Partnership's Senior Director of Inclusion Initiatives Dr. Deborah A. Bridwell, "the commission has been helping members achieve their diversity and inclusion goals."

In addition to holding two CEO briefings last year, each attended by more than 40 member CEOs, Bridwell and Andrew Jackson, senior vice president and executive director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion, point to the success of their inaugural "Senior Executive Forum." Co-hosted by the national real-estate company Forest City Enterprises and keynoted by DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti, they say it has signifi cantly strengthened local leadership buy-in with 45 senior executives attending.

"The forum helped us connect with C-level executives who oversee and maintain change efforts within their organizations and hold others

accountable to achieve results," says Jackson, a former consultant at Accenture. And Visconti "delivered a thoughtful and energizing keynote address that combined research on current and future business trends with a message about the business value of maximizing diversity and inclusion within an organization. He also praised and encouraged our region for its attention to these issues and related opportunities."

Solidifying their commitment, each new member is asked to sign an agreement promising to fi ll out the commission's annual diversity survey, designate a senior staffer responsible for diversity-and-inclusion efforts, implement a formal method for tracking supplier-diversity spend with MBEs, and more. The result of this deep-seated investment is reflected in the commission's most-recent 2009 Employers Survey on Diversity, which polled 98 member employers and found:

Cleveland's Economic Development Shows Commitment to Supplier Diversity 

"We have informed and enlightened leaders—and that's critical," says Margot James Copeland, KeyCorp's executive vice president, corporate diversity and philanthropy, and chair of KeyBank Foundation. A longtime supporter of local and national economic empowerment, Copeland was instrumental in the formation of the commission and today sits on its oversight committee, where she shares her company's core diversity values and networks with fellow members. KeyCorp has been repeatedly recognized by Greater Cleveland Partnership for board diversity as well as supplier diversity.

Diversity "helps us create sustainable relationships," says Henry L. Meyer III, former chairman and CEO, who retired May 1. "These relationships support our reinvestment in the community and support our attempt to create an inclusive and collaborative environment that helps our businesses and communities grow and prosper. Our membership in the Commission on Economic Inclusion reflects our commitment to the economic strength of northeast Ohio and all of its citizens."

For example, the Cleveland-based financial institution has made a $2-million philanthropic investment in Cuyahoga Community College (also known as Tri-C), a commission member recognized in 2007 for its workforce diversity and in 2008 for its senior management diversity. "The college is an extraordinary asset to our community," says Copeland. Tri-C's diversity program, under the direction of Judi McMullen, vice president of human resources, and Andre Burton, director of diversity and inclusion, is comprehensive. The multi-campus college offers education opportunities to a diverse slate of students—roughly 39 percent are Black, Latino or from other underrepresented groups, while 62 percent are women.

To further increase retention/graduation rates and help break down racial barriers, the college launched its Minority Male Initiative (MMI) last year, which includes mentoring, tutoring, fi eld trips, mock interviews and more. Thanks in part to the efforts of its diversity recruitment committee, Tri-C's 3,000 employees are 29 percent Black, Latino or Asian. Similarly, its tenure-track faculty searches yield an underrepresented applicant pool averaging between 20 and 29 percent, above average for faculty searches nationally.

Recently, with construction projects on the drawing board or under way, in addition to ongoing campus-wide initiatives, the college has focused on supplier diversity and set a subcontracting target of 15 percent minority-owned business enterprises, 5 percent women-owned business enterprises and 3 percent veteran-owned vendors. "I'm happy to report that, so far, we have been hitting those targets thanks to our outreach efforts," says Burton, noting Tri-C's supplier-diversity workshops for creating business plans, preparing bonds and other capacity-building tools.

"We try to weave diversity and inclusion into everything we do," says McMullen. "That's when we know we've been successful—when diversity just comes naturally."

Also pivotal to the region's supplier-diversity success is repeatedly recognized commission member Cleveland Clinic, which is on The DiversityInc Top 5 Hospital Systems list. The nonprofit academic healthcare system, with a workforce of 42,000, operates nine community hospitals and 15 family health centers in northeast Ohio, in addition to facilities nationwide and globally. Currently under construction and scheduled to open in late 2011 is its $25-million, 50,000-square-foot Huron Community Health Center. Acknowledged as an opportunity to generate jobs in Cleveland's underserved communities, the clinic set an MBE subcontracting goal of 30 percent for this project and is on track to hit 40 percent MBE participation in the project overall.

"We view our work as an opportunity to lead the rest of Cleveland," says Chief Community Relations & Diversity Officer Dr. Anthony Stallion." As organizations like ours are able to fully realize their commitment to diversity and inclusion, our patients benefi t and all of Greater Cleveland benefits."

The clinic reached supplier-diversity procurement of nearly 30 percent on the Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center completed last year.

By holding matchmaker events, collaborating with external partners and hosting vendor meet-and-greets, the clinic is effectively connecting with existing MBEs. It also helps potential MWBEs grow their size/scale to do business with Cleveland Clinic through numerous partner projects—including the Greater Cleveland Partnership Commission's Minority Business Accelerator 2.5+—as well as supports workforce-development programs to increase the number of Black, Latino, women and other underrepresented laborers in the clinic's capital-improvement projects.

"There are people and organizations in Cleveland that are making a difference through diversity," says Bridwell, "and Cleveland Clinic is working hard at it."

Creating Inclusion: Cleveland's Diversity & Inclusion Leadership

The civic-minded leadership at Forest City Enterprises, which has called Cleveland home for the past 90 years, is also making a difference, notes Bridwell. Six years ago, the company appointed its first director of diversity and inclusion, Charmaine Brown, "to put more skin in the game," she says. An active member on the commission's membership impact committee—along with co-chairs Forest City President and CEO Charles Ratner and Cleveland State University Vice President of Advancement Steven Minter—Brown quickly expanded her diversity role.

With Greater Cleveland Partner's guidance, she shifted the focus from workforce equality only to change agent of "every component of the organization." This included kicking off a strategic diversity plan for 2012–2015 with new leadership. She says, "We have engaged in a data project to get more accurate and validated information on our supplier-diversity efforts as a company. We are currently in the process of hiring a vice president of procurement."

Consider Forest City's 83-year-old Co-Chairman Albert Ratner, who is deeply committed to creating a welcoming environment in Cleveland. The son of a Polish immigrant, he realizes the value of recruiting the newly arrived to a region with a shortage of skilled labor. Along with other local executives, such as Cleveland Clinic's and Huntington National Bank's, he has laid the foundation for the city's fi rst International Welcome Center.

Its mission: to help transition skilled international workers into northeast Ohio's economy and community. If the region cannot lure high-skilled immigrants, he told the press, "We will continue to decline. We will become poorer and poorer, and more and more of our children will leave." Since Forest City builds neighborhoods, it knows "the hot spots are the places that have immigrants," he said. And thanks to a recent planning grant of $50,000, Cleveland State University (CSU), in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, is leading the center's effort.

For more than two decades, CSU has creating a welcoming campus climate. Through a university-wide diversity strategy directed by Vice President for Institutional Diversity Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm, CSU's program includes multicultural curriculum, equality in hiring and promotion and increased retention/graduation rates among underserved students. Nuru-Holm completed a comprehensive Diversity in Action Plan last year with a representative, 21-member, president-appointed Council on Diversity "to ensure that diversity is integral to excellence in access, opportunity and success at the University," states the plan. CSU offers a broad spectrum of more than 100 courses with a cultural/ethnic focus as well as a diversity-management program for its more than 17,000 students.

This has helped attract multicultural students, many of them first-generation college students. In 2009, 24 percent were Black, Latino or Asian, while 26 percent of faculty members and 31 percent of staff members were from underrepresented groups. (CSU has been repeatedly recognized by GCP for its workforce diversity.) CSU has produced the highest percentage of Black graduates in various disciplines in Ohio for more than 20 years.

To continue to increase student retention and graduation rates, support is key, says Nuru-Holm. "It's one thing to get them in the door, but it's another to retain them," she says. For example, student services include the AHANA Peer Mentoring Program, designed to engage incoming Black, Latino, Asian and American Indian freshmen both academically and socially. Similarly, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Alliance (GLASA) and LGBT Student Services work in concert and are active, organized and visible. "They feel they have a voice here," says Nuru-Holm. Support through cultural-competency training and education is also available, including CSU's free Leadership Forum on Diversity series for students, educators and the public.

Diversity and inclusion are core value at Columbus, Ohio–based Huntington Bancshares. "We are committed to attracting and retaining individuals from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of characteristics and attributes," says Steve Steinour, chairman, president and CEO of Huntington, which operates more than 600 branches in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. "But we realize that diversity in and of itself doesn't advance our mission. To keep winning as a growth organization, we need to be more open and actively welcome the unique way of thinking that every colleague has to offer."

Huntington has refocused its efforts on diversity, and in January 2011, the company appointed Traci Dunn as senior vice president, inclusion director. "This journey is focused on building an inclusive culture," says Dunn. "It brings out the best in each of us. It enables us to drive innovation to improve the customer experience in all the ways they expect but most importantly all of the ways that exceed their expectations. Our unifi ed approach to inclusion enables us to provide an inclusion lens to our talent processes as well as our business practices."

In Greater Cleveland, Huntington supports the Global Cleveland Initiative and Welcome Center. This initiative is about attracting talented people to the area—whether they are from other parts of the country or other parts of the world. The center connects them to opportunities in the community, Dunn says.

In addition, Huntington partners with the Minority Business Assistance Center of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Small Business Development Center to sponsor Huntington National Bank Days at the Urban League. These events enable minority-owned business enterprises direct access to business bankers to discuss their current and future financial needs. Huntington is currently the fourth-largest SBA lender in the country by number of loans, Dunn says.

"The ultimate goal of this cultural shift is to create a workforce of top talent that is inclusive and refl ects the communities we serve," says Keith Sanders, executive vice president and human-resources director at Huntington. "When it all comes together, Huntington becomes an even better place to work and grow professionally."

Shaping Diversity & Inclusion Strategies, Economic Development in Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland launched its most recent diversity and inclusion initiative in 2006 by conducting an extensive "diversity culture audit" that included interviews with senior executives, focus-group sessions, one-on-one interviews, a review of policies and practices, and a bank-wide survey. A multi-year strategic plan was developed, according to Diana Starks, assistant vice president and diversity officer in the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) at the Cleveland Fed. She says the results of a second survey were recently discussed with senior bank leadership and will help to shape diversity and inclusion strategies for the next three-year period.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 Reserve banks within the Federal Reserve System. It contributes to the formulation of U.S. monetary policy, monitors economic and fi nancial conditions in the region, and regulates banks within its territory, which includes Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern portion of West Virginia.

Starks says there are three components of the Cleveland Fed's diversity and inclusion journey. "We are aggressively working to have an inclusive environment. We are creating a workplace that is representative of the communities in which we live and do business and is consistent with the applicable job market, and we want to gain a reputation of having a diverse and inclusive environment," she says.

The bank conducts training and education for the entire workforce to raise and enhance awareness and build cultural competence for individuals and teams. Starks says the bank has a robust supplier-diversity program that has facilitated new business relationships with small and minority-owned businesses and has enhanced its community-outreach initiatives.

According to Starks, Sandra Pianalto, the president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Fed, demonstrates her commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace through her leadership, working with her executive team to advance the bank's diversity and inclusion strategies, attending and participating in various dialogue sessions with staff, and through her community involvement and engagement.

Developing Cleveland's Network for Diversity & Inclusion

Another notable GCP commission member is University Hospitals, a healthcare system that includes a major academic medical center; community hospitals; outpatient, urgent-care, cancer, rehabilitation and pediatric centers; and mental-health facilities. The organization—in The DiversityInc Top 5 Hospital Systems and recognized for its work/life benefits—launched its diversity council several years ago.

"We realize that University Hospitals can enhance the way we treat and serve the surrounding community through initiatives and employees that are reflective of the region's diverse population," states CEO Thomas F. Zenty III. "A spirit of inclusion is crucial to patient care and our clinical research. Our board of trustees, led by the Cultural Diversity Committee of the Board, understands that a coalition of caring staff is required to integrate diversity into every aspect of our organization, so that all patients and staff members—regardless of their background—will feel at home."

Today, University Hospitals (UH) has a 10-member council whose goals include building partnerships with the MWBEs in greater Cleveland; ensuring a multicultural group of administrative leaders; and recruiting and retaining a talented pool of faculty and other healthcare professionals from underrepresented groups, states the University Hospitals diversity report. As a result of this, the Minority House Staff Organization and other pipeline initiatives, 13 percent of UH's house staff physicians are Black, Latino or Asian, up from 2 percent a few decades ago. UH has also increased the percentage of underrepresented groups on its board to 28 percent and made a $1.2-billion investment in the community's fi nancial health.

GCP member Cleveland Public Library (CPL) has also made significant strides in the areas of workforce and supplier diversity under the guidance of the commission and committed leadership. Since his arrival from the Las Vegas public library system in 2008, Director Felton Thomas Jr. has been instrumental in helping to increase CPL's annual supplier-diversity spend by 20 percent. With capital improvements slated for the main library, "we've been working with the commission's vendor list to fi nd diverse suppliers," he says. In addition, "half of our staff [of about 700] is people of color.

Management is 30 percent and the executive team is 33 percent." Thomas describes the CPL as a "community defi cit fi ghter" and has initiated more multicultural programming. This includes a partnership book program with the Slovenian Museum & Archives and the Consulate General of the Republic of Slovenia (Northeast Ohio is home to the largest Slovene community outside of Slovenia); a free summer lunch program that delivered 20,000 meals to at-risk children this past summer, in partnership with the city of Cleveland and the Children's Hunger Alliance; and ongoing GED, ESL and U.S. citizenship courses. Soon to come: educational classes for people who have recently been released from prisons.

"We're becoming a learning lab," he says, "and making a more educated community." The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, another GCP member previously honored for senior-management diversity, is contributing to the region's cultural and economic strength as well. The organization is helping to draw the "creative class" to northern Ohio, as one of the biggest tourist attractions. Since opening in 1995, the museum has welcomed more than 7.5 million visitors and drove more than $1.5 billion to the regional economy.

"Any city that wants to make sure it's positioned for the 21st century," says KeyCorp's Copeland, "must make sure the fabric is culturally, economically and socially diverse."



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