By Jeff Gallatin
Cuyahoga County officials want to develop business opportunities, big or small, and are ready to work with entrepreneurs in a variety of ways.
Larry Benders, director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Development, and Dave Greenspan, Cuyahoga County Ward 1 councilman representing the Westshore, outlined at Thursday’s North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon ways the county is working on economic development.
Both Greenspan and Benders, who was recruited by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald from the private sector to help revamp the county development department, emphasized that there are different ways to stimulate economic growth.
Greenspan said much of the process started with changing how people thought Cuyahoga County conducts business. He detailed how, after the scandals of the former county commission form of government, the new county executive and the county council got new ethics legislation and an inspector general installed.
“We had to change people’s perceptions,” Greenspan said. “We had to get them to trust that we were doing it the right way.”
Greenspan, who noted he came to Cuyahoga County about five and a half years ago, said he works at pointing out to people and prospective businesses that Cuyahoga County is a great destination location and place to start a business.
“Some people use the wrong W word,” he said. “Some people, when others come here, ask why, when we should be saying, ‘Welcome.’”
Benders, who came to the county post after serving as the marketing vice president for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has also worked for the city of Cleveland, Coors and Ben and Jerry’s.
He said one immediate goal was to streamline the development process for businesses seeking information or assistance.
“We need to be accessible,” he said.
Benders spoke with several business representatives in the audience after the presentation and encouraged others to call him at 216-443-7277, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.developmentcuyahogacounty.us for additional information.
Benders said he consulted with businesses, banks and others involved in business to determine the best ways to help make the process easier.
Having assistance available in different areas was vital, he said, saying the establishment of the Western Reserve Fund for economic development loans was also a major step. He said a staff experienced in handling and expediting such loans was set up. He said the fund is available to both small and large businesses for use helping an existing business in the area grow or to bring businesses from other areas into Cuyahoga County.
Benders also referred to other development measures. He cited the Global Center for Health Innovation (formerly called the Medical Mart) project as a major boon to northern Ohio, noting it will bring in businesses wanting to be near the primary site as well as convention-related activity.
“You should take a look – it’s going to be a major success,” he said, referring to the new facilities being built in downtown Cleveland to house the center’s and related businesses.
He said the executive/administrative branch and county council all play roles in moving the development process forward and encouraging growth.
Getting all 59 communities to sign onto anti-poaching legislation to not raid each other for businesses was also a major step, Benders said.
“The war is over on each other,” he said.
North Olmsted chamber President Jeff Herwick said afterward it was an impressive presentation.