I grew up in Cleveland. Like many people my age who wanted to do “more” than “just” graduate from college, get a job and have a family. I moved away from Cleveland…to South China where I own a growing technology business.
A friend of mine Mike Shafarenko recently shared a link (login required) to Tom Bier’s Op-Ed about making over Cleveland to attract young talent on Facebook. His link generated a thread of comments ranging from “Cleveland is awesome there’s so much to do” to “Cleveland needs to stop trying to compete with bar scenes in other cities.”
Cleveland needs to give up on trying to attract young talent and focus on its strength: being a great place to raise a family.
How many times have you heard someone say “I want to move so my family can enjoy a better standard of living and quality of life, so I’m going to move to Manhattan”? What about, “I want to move my family to a bigger house, so I’m going to move to Central, Hong Kong?” That’s right, you haven’t!
People move to Cleveland because it is a great place to raise a family. $1 million US dollars will get you a 400 square foot apartment in Central, Hong Kong. Manhattan prices aren’t far behind. For the same amount of money, you could buy a mansion in a picturesque Cleveland suburb with acres of grass and forest for your kids to play in.
For young talent that spends most of their time either working or socializing, size of living space isn’t a priority. All they want is a place to sleep. For a family, they want a house with enough room so that their kids can have their own rooms and space to play.
Moving a young family around on public transit is a trying experience. Places like Hong Kong and NYC are expensive for car owners. In Cleveland, parking tickets are cheaper than the cost of an hour of parking in the cities that attract young talent. Minivan life is much more affordable.
You’re probably thinking, Cleveland, with its low cost of living, sounds like a great for young talent without much money like the starving artists and startup entrepreneurs. Wrong!
Mike hits the nail right on the head:
Whenever I talk to people about Cleveland, I describe it as "fragmented coolness." There are pockets of great things, but because they are spread out, nothing gets to scale.
Translated, “fragmented coolness” means, you need to have a car. I know the Cleveland public transit defenders will start tooting the horn of the RTA and talk about Cleveland’s bus and light rail system. But a public transit system with headways of 15, 30 or more minutes is not a public transit system, its a transit system for poor people whose time is valueless. Young talent has things to do and time is of the essence. They may not have money, but can’t afford to waste hours getting around. No car in Cleveland? You’re stranded and under house arrest.
Families seek stability so that they can raise their children. Young talent seeks change, to make a difference. Change threatens families. Stability threatens young talent trying to create change. The two are contradictory.
Cleveland needs to stop feeling guilty about being a great place to have a family and not such a great place for young people.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
By feeling guilty about it and acting like this is some problem, Cleveland gives legitimacy to the view as Cleveland as “the mistake on the lake.”
How about this new slogan: “Cleveland: For when you’re ready to grow up”
What’s your take on Cleveland’s inferiority complex and multi-decade drive to attract young people?