During the Industrial Age, the city of Cleveland in Northeast Ohio was one of America's great trade and manufacturing centers. A key link in a transport system of rivers, canals and railroads, Cleveland was home to steel companies and was the place where Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller made his fortune. Its last "boom" years, however, came just after the Second World War, when its population peaked at 914,000 in 1949. The second half of the 20th Century brought industrial decline, rising unemployment and racial unrest, culminating in 1978 when Cleveland became the first US city to default on its creditors since the Great Depression. Dismissed in the press as "the mistake by the lake," Cleveland appeared to face the bleakest of futures.
Under Mayors Michael White and George Voinovich, however, the metropolitan area began to recover. New investment poured into real estate projects in the downtown area, bringing hope for the future. But traditional economic development strategies had only limited impact. At the end of the century, Cleveland had one of the highest poverty rates among large American cities, with almost one-third of adults and 47% of children living at or below the poverty line. As a result, many inner-city neighbourhoods remained troubled and the school system faced serious problems. More importantly, the economic environment in which Cleveland had to compete was changing fast. The original advantages that had powered its growth were of little value in a knowledge-based economy.
Among the metropolitan area's assets, however, were strong government and nonprofit institutions, including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Nortech. These organizations teamed with the city, the regional transit authority and other partners to form a nonprofit called OneCleveland, now known as OneCommunity (www.onecommunity.org). Its mission: to deploy a community-based ultra-broadband network in the metropolitan area and to build a new knowledge economy on its foundation. The project was the brainchild of Lev Gonick, CIO at Case Western. The network was switched on in 2003 and today has a dozen institutional subscribers ranging from the city and the regional MetroHealth System to the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra. Applications running on the network include high-definition videoconferencing connecting Cleveland Clinic doctors to city schools for the delivery of healthcare, best-in-class programs from the Cleveland Museum of Art delivered to branch libraries, and a pilot wireless project with Intel to enable city and county inspectors to file and exchange data on building permits in the field. In 2005, Intel named the greater Cleveland area as one of three Worldwide Digital Communities deploying wireless broadband applications to improve government and other services.
Under President Scott Rourke, OneCommunity has focused as much on human factors as technology. The nonprofit has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from governments, foundations and businesses to invest in technology training and network expansion. A model program called Computer Learning in My Backyard or CLIMB focused technology and financial literacy training on low-income, working-age residents, and included funding to subsidize PC and Internet access purchases. The Fund for our Economic Future, a collaboration among 66 regional foundations, launched in February 2006 an 18-month program called Voices & Choices. The program aimed to engage an estimated 50,000 area leaders in Internet-enabled "town meetings" and smaller-scale discussions in order to educate people about the realities facing the regional economy and create an action plan for fostering growth. OneCommunity became the Web services provider for this public dialogue.
OneCommunity has also been a relentless and skillful marketer of its efforts, and has received coverage in publications ranging from Computer World to The New York Times. Its high profile surely played a role in a decision by IBM to select Cleveland as the first region to benefit from a grid-computing initiative called the Economic Development Grid, which allows government, institutions and businesses to leverage computing power. Northeast Ohio has also become home to Cisco's wireless technology operations and research center, Agilysys, Progressive Insurance and other companies.
Still very much a work in progress, OneCommunity is recognized by the ICF for the breadth of its vision – encompassing technology, education, digital democracy, innovation and marketing – and the very real progress it has achieved in a relatively short time.
Labor Force: 1,800,000