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Do you support Speaker Budish’s push for more government collaboration?

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civic engagement

  • Manufacturing Jobs Go Unfilled


    We’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about the schizophrenic job market in Northeast Ohio. Unemployment is above the national average and incomes are below the norm. Yet, thousands of jobs are available, including many in the manufacturing sector. One only has to read the newspaper to know manufacturing operations are continuing to close. So how can it be that manufacturers can’t find workers?

    The Associated Press takes a look at that issue with a story that’s being published around the country and its focused on Northeast Ohio. You can read the whole story here.

    Here are the first few graphs:

    CLEVELAND – Michael Starr was laid off in mid-career from his factory job and found himself back in the classroom to upgrade his skills – for a new high-tech manufacturing environment struggling to find workers.

    Working in industry today “is not like the old days: get a hammer and fix it,” the 45-year-old said.

    Starr was laid off Jan. 15 from his sheet-metal working job in suburban Medina. He has enrolled in a Lorain County Community College program to take courses in computers, math, machining, industrial blueprint reading, advanced computerized numerical controlled milling and job-search and study skills.

    When he showed up in class, “I was terrified, (like) training an old dog new tricks,” he said.

    The nation has shed 5 million manufacturing jobs in three decades, but higher-skill factory jobs like Starr’s goal increasingly go unfilled as employers deal with applicants with poor reading and math abilities and a bad attitude about blue-collar work.

    The National Association of Manufacturers says the skill shortages have hurt production and the ability to meet customer demands.

    And the pattern is likely to persist as the nation sheds old-style manufacturing to compete in a global economy.

    The story also highlights MAGNET, which has a new campaign called Dream It! Do It! to attract more people into the manufacturing arena. Also, a consortium of health care systems trying to address the shortage in medical workers is exploring how to help laid-off Ford workers to transition into the health care industry.

    What do you think we should be doing to help incumbent workers keep their present jobs or develop the skills for the jobs of tomorrow?

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    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 09:51.

    Schools have always been used to fill job needs. Max Hayes is doing work with WIRE NET to help fill some of these jobs. But why not have a school that specifically targets, for the general school population, the courses needed to fill these jobs? Manufacturing companies in dire need of these skilled workers could become active in this school’s community. I love the WIRE NET program but it does seem as if more students could take advantage of the jobs if more students were educated accordingly.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 11:07.

    What should we be doing to advance the skills of NE Ohio? How about getting active in programs like those at Max Hayes and other area schools? Last weekend, over 2000 people — families, students, car fanatics and others — came to gether at the first Shoreway Classic and Career Opportunities Showcase at Max Hayes HS. Max Hayes is the only Cleveland school teaching technical skills like machining, Computer Aided Design, Welding, Auto Body and Auto Tech. WIRE-Net and DA MotorSports organized the Showcase to merge the interests of NE Ohio car buffs with interested parents and students. We were glad to have Magnet and Dream It Do It involved…but we need more support!

    See our website at for more information.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 15:40.

    Two generations ago, the American middle class was fed a fairy tale that most bought hook, line and sinker. “Get an education, go to work, pay your taxes, play by the rules and you will have a job for life.” The reality now is that many multi national corporations have the ability to pull workers from anywhere on the globe, for pennies on the dollar.Couple this new reality with the current imbalance of trade and federal government budget deficits, those with a job are forced to worker longer hours with higher costs of living for incremental wage increases.

    Now that the genie is out of the bottle, labor and white collar workers must embark on a life long path of learning new skills and keeping abreast in the latest technology. Unless the middle class can breathe and stop long enough to assess their current environment and quickly adapt to the changes of that environment, the U.S. will be a unwilling participate in a third world caste system.

    # Submitted by ARSWORLDWIDE on Thu, 05/24/2007 – 21:17.

    The first question coming to my mind is, what are the jobs of tomorrow and who will be learning these skills? Are current workers looking to develop the new skills. Employers with incentive to encourage their workforce to develop the skills now, appears to be a viable approach. Everything has vocabulary, and progressive steps. By introducing both to the current workforce, before a job loss or plant closing gives the worker a leg up. Pair at work learning with community based education where the worker can opt to take time for traditional training courses away from the job, or at the employers’ location, versus a pay raise. No pay raise, then a reduction in pay, to accommondate time away from job duties for skills training. Mirror training with personal discipline habits of a personal budget, investment skills, and savings/retirement goals. Develping skills for tomorrow is developing a new mindset.

    # Submitted by Anonymous on Sat, 05/26/2007 – 07:13.

    The North East Ohio manufacturing CEO’s complained, “It is getting more and more difficult to find folks with the skill levels we desire.”

    So, the manufacturing community, in its desperation for skilled workers, turned to the education community and the non-profits to solve the problem.
    Happily, career and tech educators redesigned programs and wrote new curriculum to teach the skills that manufacturers said they needed, but soon complained not enough students signed up for the classes.
    The non-profits, knowing that problems present opportunities to garner more grant money, created boards, had meetings, held forums, wrote action plans, sponsored luncheons, gave each other awards, and hired marketing firms.
    The marketing firms, relied upon conventional wisdom, and came up with the strategy: Cool sells. Make manufacturing look like a cool career choice.

    Recruiting efforts were aimed at children in grade school: “Look at this robot…isn’t manufacturing cool? …Go to a career tech school. You can learn to build robots and make lots of money.”
    The kids thought, “That’s nice, but I’m gonna play for the NBA, then I’ll be a rap star, then I’ll go to Hollywood.”

    Numbers in the high school and community college manufacturing programs continued to decline. More and more money was being pumped into the schools yet the trickle of young people seeking jobs in manufacturing was slowing to a drip.
    Manufacturers began to panic; the worker deficit was in a rapid decline as baby-boomers retired. Lobbyists got the state and federal governments to dedicate money for job training. Relying, once again, on conventional problem solving, manufacturing threw even more money at the non-profits.
    What did they get? Another ad campaign, a new slogan, and still no increase in skilled employees.
    The bumper-sticker definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same thing and expect different results.
    Why does the manufacturing community keep looking to the non-profit community to solve its difficulties? The non-profits are in the business of keeping themselves busy, and finding money to pay their salaries. The manufacturing industry needs to look inside its own walls for the answers.

    Every good plant manager knows that the answers to a company’s problems are found on the factory floor.

    Identify your best employees. Talk to them. Why did they come to your company? Where were they trained? How old were they when they made the choice to work in manufacturing? Why did they choose to work in manufacturing? What other jobs did they have?
    Would the most popular responses be: “When I was a kid in junior high, I decided I wanted to work in a factory”, or “Factory jobs are cool, they have always been my dream.”?
    A more typical response will be, “After I had a couple of kids, I needed a job with decent wages, regular hours and health care.”

    Exit questionnaires are also very informative.
    Ask the technical schools how many students are enrolled in their manufacturing programs, and then check to see how many are actually working in manufacturing a year or two after graduating. Talk to the students who AREN’T working in the industry. Why did they quit the program? Why aren’t they working for a manufacturer? Wasn’t this a really “cool” job?

    It is time for a reality check.

    Entry level factory jobs aren’t all that cool. The high school basketball player isn’t dreaming of pressing buttons on a CNC machine in an Eastlake job shop. But the twenty five year old single mother might be, or the store clerks with bachelors’ degrees, college loans, car-loans, and mortgages, or the father of three who just got out of the half-way house after serving 14 months for selling marijuana.

    Manufacturing jobs are good jobs, but they aren’t all that “sexy”. If the industry can’t find recruits amongst the 18-21 year-olds coming out of high schools and community colleges, perhaps it is time to look at a different, more mature demographic.
    Who are the people looking for good jobs with regular hours and good benefits?
    Young parents, struggling college grads, new immigrants, and ex-offenders trying to get back on track,

    Instead of wasting money at the front end of the problem, on ineffective feel-good recruiting campaigns, which end up promoting schools, but do very little to ease the worker shortage in the manufacturing industry, wouldn’t it make more sense to offer student loan-forgiveness for people who successfully complete manufacturing skills training classes and enter the workforce, to provide more substantial scholarships to high school graduates pursuing degrees in manufacturing related fields, and to support the Second Chance Act and ex-offender reentry job training?

    # Submitted by cthompson on Sat, 05/26/2007 – 11:04.

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments and the comments of others who are joining the Advance Northeast Ohio community.

    I think MAGNET’s Dream It Do It campaign is also targeting adults, not just high school students. You can learn more about their program here.

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Agriculture: Strategies for Successful Regional Agenda Development

  • Regionalism Strategies


    Regional development of an agriculture agenda is truly an essential part of the business stimulus dialogue. But, like managing any regional initiative, the creation of such ventures requires much more delicate facilitation than one might expect.

    The aim of any successful regional business initiative is two fold: meet the needs of each individual stakeholder WHILE AT THE SAME TIME create a common platform among multiple stakeholders. It’s sort of like blending multiple scores of music together to create an orchestral piece.

    The problem is, regionalism is still understood / perceived as a fancy word for merger, and merger naturally implies LOSS. And ‘loss’ brings along with it conscious and unconscious fears.

    It’s important that any regionalism effort first be articulated and developed as a partnership initiaitve where no one will lose. They might CHANGE, but they won’t lose. It is also important to honor people’s fears.

    Launching the work is the hard part. The approach we use at CTP is Synergistic Improvement© and encompasses three (3) phases:

    Phase 1: System Audit and Asset Mapping
    Phase 2: Visioning, Leadership and Stakeholder Mobilization
    Phase 3: Integration and Accountability

    These phases ensure successful regional agenda development effort; or, as we call it: reciprocal partnership or consolidation.

    A skilled facilitator should be able to facilitate the unfolding of these phases using process and culture building techniques to make sure what is created is rooted in the SOURCE (i.e. the stakeholders) and NOT in the priorities set by others who “supposedly” know better and have done all the right research.

    LAYING THE FOUNDATION: This implies that the most important aspects of any regionalism effort is getting all the respective stakeholders AT THE TABLE, not just the ones with which we are comfortable.

    In agriculture, that would include everyone in Tier One (1) of the production network, including grain provider, farmer, immediate support sources (pesticide companies, equipment providers, etc…), emerging agriculture students, and immediately impacted corporations. If cows or produce could speak – I’d make sure they were at the table, too.

    Tier Two (2) stakeholders could also be engaged, if you really wanted to ensure systemic innovation. These stakeholders might include: academic representation, national association representatives, federal agriculture regulators, corporate industry leaders, and EVEN competitors.

    This intentional multi-stakeholder / multi-sector representation construct is the framework within which change and benefit can occur for everyone. And the honoring of everyone within the intended industry paradigm also ensures the process unfolds with respect and dignity.

    I don’t know many merger efforts where respect and dignity are a priority.

    CREATING THE CULTURE: In addition to getting the right stakeholders at the table to support the foundation, it is imperative that HOW this group works together is skillfully guided.

    The culture in which change and planning unfold will determine the end product.

    Culture building dynamics must be woven throughout to affect: individual reflection, communication sharing and trust building. Some of the most proven techniques in culture building today include Appreciative Inquiry, Gestalt, Open Space and Transformative Change. Good technology applications can also really make a difference.

    Here, the foundation of WHO (is involved) and the culture of HOW goals are developed (the flavor of the process) blend together to set the stage for implemented the WHAT (Phases 1, 2 and 3 of development). If all this is aligned, planning becomes a place where synergy is released and innovation is born.

    All in all, a thorough approach to building a partnership agenda ensures the aims of regionalism can be met: cost savings, innovation, and sustainability.

    When we realize that regional economic development is, at its core, a psychological process intended to build a new system, we can look at these processes much differently and, therefore, develop constructs where everyone shares in the passion for change and campaigns on behalf of its success.



    The fear factor is so true.  As is the need to build trust.  And breaking down fear and building trust can only come, as you suggest, through dialogue and relationship building.  That is why it is so critical, in my opinion, that we build at system to support regional action that recognizes the barriers and breaks them down.  I don’t think that system exists today – we see examples here and there, but we don’t have a way to engage enough people in the right way so that we build momentum.

    In your experience, is the “who” that does the convening matter?  I’ve seen in other parts of the country a single organization build expertise and credibility as the convener (citizen-led organizations).  Do you have other examples?

    Thanks for this post!

    Laura Steinbrink Director, Regional Partnerships [email protected]

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Minority Companies Finding More Opportunities

Creating more economic opportunities for minority-owned companies is one of the strategies of Advance Northeast Ohio, and one of the regional initiatives pursuing that strategy is the Minority Business Accelerator 2.5+. It recently provided a review of its year of performance.

The MBA 2.5+ completed nine deals in 2008 that totaled more than $6 million with an average deal value of $650,000. The companies helped added more than 30 employees. The deals were from multiple industries: telecommunications and data cabling; electrical; construction; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; printing; and professional services.

Congratulations to the inaugural class of MBEs served by the MBA 2.5+:

• Coleman Spohn Co.
• The Coniglio Co.
• FX Digital Media Inc. (
• Global Point Technologies, Inc.
• Key General Contractors
• Mac Installations
• Ralph Tyler Companies
• Start to Finish Construction
• Triple A Builders

Also, thanks to these companies that provided business opportunities to the MBA 2.5+ companies in 2008:

• Case Western Reserve University
• Cleveland Clinic
• Cleveland Metropolitan School District (STEM High School project)
• Cleveland Museum of Art
• Cuyahoga County
• KeyCorp
• The MetroHealth Medical System
• The Sherwin-Williams Company

In January the MBA 2.5+ also added a new client, Clark Mechanical, which was recently awarded a $4 million subcontract from Coleman Spohn for work on the University Hospital construction project.

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Attraction Efforts Generating Results

The constant headlines regarding job cuts across our region and the country can make it easy to forget that some companies are continuing to grow and Northeast Ohio needs to continue to work at attracting those companies here.

Today Carin Rockind of Team NEO will be joining a few other partners in Advance Northeast Ohio in a conversation with Leadership Mahoning Valley to discuss our region’s action plan. As was reported last month, Team NEO helped recruit 10 companies to the region last year with 700 jobs. Team NEO knows we need to increase those results and one way to do that is to generate more leads regarding company expansion opportunities.

Do you know of a company from another region or overseas that might be looking to expand and would benefit from locating in the Cleveland Plus region? If so, please reach out to Team NEO and pass along the lead.

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What Can We Do Together?

Last week I had the opportunity to present at the first of a 3-part series on regionalism hosted by the League of Women Voters (many different leagues across NEO from Shaker Heights to Trumbull County).  The next two events are at the Hudson Library the evenings of 2/12 and 2/26 and feature discussions on revenue sharing and the Regional Prosperity Initiative.

Something I said during my presentation struck people.  I know this because I have now received multiple notes from those in the audience about the same comment:  Regionalism isn’t about consolidation, its about collaboration and sharing.

Regionalism doesn’t require you to give up what you have, or to take from your neighbor, but instead encourages you to ask and answer the question, “What can we do together?” 

Folks, the time has come where we can no longer stick our heads in the sand and pretend that what happens “over there” isn’t our problem.  I know you know know what I’m taking about.  No more using “regionalism = consolidation” as an easy way out.  We are all in this together, so we might as well get over whatever issues prevent us from asking and answering the question, “What can we do together?”