graduation rate, with many entering top universities, and Mr. Richard hopes that many will return to Cleveland to work in the anchor institution hospitals.
“We have a long way to go,” Mr. Richard said in summary, “and now we’re looking at what more we can do, given our balance sheet. We have about $2 billion, we’re looking to see how we can invest that money in local institutions and efforts that will give us a good return on investment but also have a double or triple bottom line for us.” Mr. Richard concluded by underlining the importance of philanthropy in the campaign for economic development. “We have wonderful foundations in this region, and they all have their oar in the water,” he said. “We’re all going in the same direction, and I hope we’ll really contribute to the success of the public and private sectors.”
A questioner asked for a good example of creating a cluster, and Dr. Lefton conceded that much more is known about the value of clusters than about how to create them—“especially in places with traditional economies, like Cleveland and Akron. I would probably point to Pittsburgh as one that is starting to take hold.”
Mr. Fernandez added that in addition to the well known examples of Silicon Valley, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, and others, a successful life sciences and medical device cluster was started early in the 1980s in Indiana and has since grown in healthy fashion. The cluster is driven by an organization called Biocrossroads, a public-private partnership. Likewise, in Kansas is a strong aviation and advanced manufacturing cluster being driven by a several chambers of commerce. He said other solid examples are found, some of them in unexpected places, such as the strong cluster around Virginia Tech that was created with the help of tobacco settlement money. He said the EDA is now mapping many of these, which could make it easier to link to organizations that are building successful cluster initiatives.
Investing Across Borders
Dr. Lefton asked what the optimal size of a cluster is, and whether the area from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Akron is too large for a viable cluster. Mr. Fernandez said he thought size was less an issue than “some of these archaic jurisdictional borders that get in the way of collaboration. The economy doesn’t follow those borders, and yet they often constrain us.” What the Federal government could do, he said, through competition and tools, is to “give local officials some ‘cover’ for co-investing with their neighbors. We all know we don’t really care much about borders on maps, especially the private sector, but when you try to co-invest, it is really hard.” For example, the mayor of Bloomington, he said, would be chastised for putting money in another county, even when it helped the region. He said that foundations could help overcome such boundaries issues.