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The same question arises in Detroit:

  • Commentary: Will next mayor continue Detroit’s death spiral?
  • Cleveland can look to Youngstown…where the city has developed an international reputation for confronting reality and finding opportunity.

  • Smaller is Better for Youngstown, Ohio
  • The Incredible Shrinking City
  • In regional economic development, demography defines your trajectory.

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership, some years ago, published a strategy named Cleveland on the Edge.

    But “Edge of what?”

    Last 5 posts by Ed Morrison

    You might also like:

    15 Responses to “Does Cleveland have a sensible plan to shrink?”

    1. JanKo Says:

      Re. Tim Ryan and co-sponsors submitted HR 932, Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act of 2009, to the 111th Congress two days ago.

      I put the submitted bill in a blog, as Thomas prevents permanent links.

    2. George Nemeth Says:

      Look. I don’t have to explain it to you Ed, but there are certain people in this town who won’t talk to other certain people. It’s juvenile.

      But until a bunch of us can sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about how we all get to where we want to be—we’ll all just keep asking each other these questions.

    3. Ed Morrison Says:

      Well, George, you’re right about that. Most of the people doing regional economic development in this town don’t really know what they’re doing. It’s not really that surprising that the region has launched some remarkably unproductive efforts.

      They are building a piecemeal regional “strategy” with a set of top-heavy Cleveland-centric organizations: Team NEO, JumpStart, NorTech, Magnet.

      There’s very little accountability. The salaries these people are making are way out of whack. Meaningful metrics are hard to find. And the over-reliance on consultants producing reports is wasteful. They are producing a foundation-led industrial policy. Slow, insular, expensive.

      I just spent the afternoon with Holly Harlan. It’s amazing how little funding the foundations provide to E4S. Here’s a national model of open innovation sitting under their noses, and they can’t even see it. Instead, they waste money hiring consultants to tell them what a sustainable economy supposed to look like.

      (It brings back how they hired a consultant to tell them how to do a civic process for the region: the $3 million Voices and Choices scam that ended up costing $150 per participant, enough for a steak dinner, cheesecake, and a bottle of wine at Morton’s.)

      At the same time, the foundations ignored David Cooperrider, an internationally recognized expert in large group interventions (who had just finished a stint working with the United Nations).

      All of this brings to mind a story. Some years ago in Louisiana, I was working with a top music attorney based in Atlanta. He represents BB King, Cheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and a bunch of other artists.

      We were trying to educate local political leaders in Shreveport, LA on the importance of the music industry to economic development in Northwest Louisiana.

      After we our presentation to the city council, Joel turned me and said, “This is going to take some time. We are dealing with a lot of ignorance down here.”

      George, Cleveland’s going to take some time.

    4. John Polk Says:

      George…What Ed says has a great deal of merit. It is far easier to list a litany of civic flashes-in-the-pan than it is to identify areas in which our civic and institutional leadership organizations have made a constructive difference in achieving measurable outcomes (perhaps next week’s GCP Annual Meeting will reflect not just mushy process but meaningful results)…

      But Civic Cleveland is in the grip of The Path Of Least Resistance: even those who can SEE the ineffectiveness, arrogance and laziness of our institutional leaders are loath to build a constituency for change. Doing so would take commitment, work, and passion on the part of busy CEO-types who, frankly, are either enmeshed in The Matrix, and hence benefitting form the status quo, or studiously avoiding The Matrix, since they have better things to do…like minding their companies.

      Perhaps you would consider getting some people together for a chat…I continue to be surprised and gratified by who reads BFD…It’s sorta like The Beverly Hillbillies…an awful lot of people who SAY they’re too cool for school pay attention when their names are mentioned.

      The community may actually be approaching a point at which a few smart people may consider listening to a more interesting story. Your readers and contributors may be in a position to help shape that story.

    5. Jack Ricchiuto Says:

      Lack of conversational fluency and literacy was not invented here, no matter how many people would like to make the claim. Those of us like Ed and I see it all over. The good news: it’s learnable and starts with some of us inviting others of us into the conversations that have the power to evoke respect, regard, listening, authentic trust. As it turns out, complaining about people who don’t get it is not one of these conversations because it postpones the act of inviting conversations that build community as has become a ubiquitous trend on web 2.0 media like twitter.

    6. Susan Miller Says:


      The edge is a dead link. Go figure.

      Do I hear an invitation here or is this just more rhetoric? I think we need to be grooming some new candidates – maybe a forum for the “considering it” with a few elected who could tell their stories of “becoming elected” to office.

      Is ED community (BFD) paying attention to the planning community or to what’s up at realneo? You all may have written off Norm and Jeff Buster and me, but it doesn’t mean that since you stopped reading or we stopped writing nothing is happening. Just a thought.

      What or should I say who are we waiting for? Couldn’t i-open schedule a meeting? Betsey and Susan are so good at that. You might have to reach out to some people who have given up on this or that forum of discussion. You might have to reach with something warmer and more direct than an email…

      I would help.

    7. JS Says:

      “Couldn’t i-open schedule a meeting?”

      If the meeting is to announce the simultaneous formation of two new entities…

      …A PAC for supporting politicians who espouse those issues you merely talk about now

      …A venture fund for hostile takeovers and massive restructuring

      then count me in. Otherwise, not interested.

    8. michael feigenbaum Says:

      jack i love your ever optimistic view yes skills can be learned but only with willing students. the status quo in cleveland will not yield power easily and they want the rest of us to keep our mouths shut. the secret way med-mart was handled is a point of reference. how about the port move east, who made millions on the worthless land now that the port wants it probably sold for millions to friends of the port people. we need revolution not conversation. the civility has been drained from this place by the years of corrupt self-interest actions of the elite power brokers who condescend hollow promises of brighter futures for us all.oops maybe i am too negative?

    9. Ann Seller Says:

      Right now there is a lot of momentum in Cleveland to bring together the community and discuss the future of the city and the Greater Cleveland Area. If this conversation happens, possibly late Spring, I would like to know which groups, minus the foundations, are working to create a strategic plan for Cleveland?

      My organization, Greater Ohio, has had conversations with multiple entities in Cleveland: FEFF, The Regional Prosperity Initiative Committee (aka NEOM&CMA), CNDC, NPI, Policy Bridge, who are we missing?

    10. Does Cleveland have a sensible plan to shrink? - Greater Ohio Says:

      [...] Ed Morrison · Does Cleveland have a sensible plan to shrink? [...]

    11. George Nemeth Says:

      Is ED community (BFD) paying attention to the planning community or to what’s up at realneo? You all may have written off Norm and Jeff Buster and me, but it doesn’t mean that since you stopped reading or we stopped writing nothing is happening.


    12. John Polk Says:

      Organizations and institutions don’t do things…people do…Pick 15 smart and interesting people and put ‘em in a room. Next time have each person bring a friend…That’s how revolutions start…Conversations are cool, but imply two-way exchange…of which we have not had an abundance…This is more like pulling up the trebuche, setting it up across the moat from the drawbridge, and loading it with boulders…a way to get the courtiers’ attention…

    13. Ed Morrison Says:

      Jack is exactly right. Cleveland does not have a monopoly on ineffective civic behavior. Communities and regions all over the country are struggling to define new patterns of civic conversation and action. (In this country, we use the term, “engagement”. Interestingly, in Mexico, they use the term “linkage”.)

      Defining these new patterns is critically important for a simple reason. The challenges we face — from failing schools to a slipping international position in innovation to imagining new possibilities for shrinking cities to reducing the lead poisoning of our children — are all complex.

      We meet us these challenges outside the four walls of any one organization. In other words, we must think and act strategically on complex projects in an open space, a space in which no one can tell anyone else what to do.

      Paradoxically, managing complexity in this way is simple. But it is not easy. It requires discipline and practice. But as Jack notes (and as many corporations have found, e.g., Google), we can manage complexity with a set of simple rules, consistently applied.

      When we do this, remarkable transformations are possible.

      I’ve posted my extended comments over on Real NEO.

      John Polk offers good guidance on next steps.

    14. Ed Morrison Says:


      I post thoughts on your question here:

    15. Jim OBryan Says:

      My only thought on this is that it seems very short sighted. If we fail downsizing? If we succeed, all we have done is downsized? The point is?

      What we need to do is develop plans of action that bring more people to Cleveland, and the area. As most regional groups have failed miserably to do this we must activate others to farm the coasts, and out of the country,

      Fresh water, recreation and a very safe environment should lead to a quickly growing population.