What’s the Basis of Cleveland’s Economy?

by | Aug 30, 2017 | Cost of Living & Economy

August 29, 2017“Your city grew up as an industrial steel town, but what makes it hum now?” a recent candidate asked.
It’s a natural question for someone considering a move. Most people want to feel that they are moving to a town that is more than a one trick pony, even if the reason they ask is just to insure that if the job they relocated for doesn’t work out, at least there would be lots of other thriving companies to consider. And, in a bigger sense, everyone wants to be moving to an area that is growing and thriving, not winding down, so we get why people ask the question.
And, our client was right. Cleveland, like a lot of midwestern cities, roared to life at the turn of the century mostly due to heavy manufacturing including steel, automobiles, gas refineries, paint companies, machine shops, etc. But 100 years later, we have evolved into a diverse knowledge-based economy led by what lots of people in Cleveland refer to as eds, meds, and arts.
Eds (higher education) – Eds employ almost 30,000, and more than 20 colleges and universities in NE Ohio present over 40,000 degrees a year according to NOCHE (Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education).
Meds (medicine/healthcare) – One in five jobs in NE Ohio is tied in some way to healthcare, in part due to the presence of three hospital systems that dominate the employment landscape in the region: Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals Health System, and MetroHealth Medical Center. These organizations alone employ enough people (40,000) to qualify as a small city!
Arts – NE Ohio has such a vibrant arts scene, from the independent solo artist working out of a live/work loft space to behomeths like the Cleveland Museum of Art and Playhouse Square.  A great place to get an overview of all of this is from the quarterly CAN Magazine (Collective Arts Network). Many people believe that neighborhoods anchored by an arts institution are as vibrant, if not more so, than those anchored by lots of small entrepreneurial businesses. And, we self-tax in our region to support the arts as well.
Other industries that employ lots of people in NE Ohio include: science and engineering; biotechnology; banking and finance; legal, and manufacturing (yep, we still makes lots of stuff here).
So there you have it. Cleveland and Akron are powered by a knowledge based economy led by eds, meds and arts.