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Cleveland's Growing Pains: From Balkanized to Globalized

On Friday, November 14th, we went to the City Club to hear a talk called "Cleveland's Growing Pains: From Balkanized to Globalized" by Mr. Richey Piiparinen who leads the Center for Population Dynamics at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. He is the co-editor of the book "Rust Belt Chic: A Cleveland Anthology" and is known for his research on cultural, economic, and demographic trends. He works very closely with our friend, Ms. Joy Roller, President of Global Cleveland. Mr. Piiparinen said that one of the biggest problems that is facing Cleveland is its own self image and we need to break the cycle of thinking of ourselves as living in a depleted area that will never again amount to anything. We believe this is very true because when a good friend of ours moved here from Los Angeles and said he really liked it here, he was constantly asked why he would want to leave such a thriving metropolis like Los Angeles and move to a place like Cleveland (aka the mistake on the lake). Mr. Piiparinen quoted a lot of statistics that should be cause for optimism. For instance, many of the people who have left Cleveland like Mr. Lebron James gain a new perspective and decide to return here. What's more, research done over a three year period shows that, due to high productivity, Cleveland has posted the 8th highest income gain in the nation. Many young adults with advanced college degrees have chosen to come here and settle not in the suburbs (like their parents) but in the inner city. The cost of living in a place like Silicon Valley is just getting too expensive so businesses are taking a second look at places like Cleveland. Mr. Piiparinen cited the recent decision of Mr. Eric Spiegel of Siemens to consider Northeast Ohio as a location for its operations in advanced manufacturing, energy and healthcare. Above all, health care is our driving force industry. Mr. Piiparinen said that Dr. Toby Cosgrove is our Bill Gates and the Cleveland Clinc is our Microsoft. Overall, Mr. Piiparinen really stressed that "migration is economic development" and without migration we become insular. During the question and answer period, Mr. Piiparinen spoke about the potential of immigration to impact Northeast Ohio. When asked what recommendations he would give to Mr. Armond Budish, who just won the election to become the next Cuyahoga County Executive and was one of the attendees, he said that he should follow Global Cleveland's lead and work to attract foreign born students to our universities and use local health care as a "brand". It doesn't matter if these students decide not to remain here after college because at least a connection has been established. We also need to attract highly skilled immigrants here to boost our economic development because if they are highly skilled they are generally well paid and will spend money here. Mr. Piiparinen cited the potential of Brazilians in Cleveland-they are small in number here but communicate with their families back in Brazil all of the time so the possibilities for more immigration to the United States from Brazil are there. Speaking of Brazilians, we spent a few minutes visiting with Mr. Piiparinen's lovely fiancé, Ms. Andiara Lima who immigrated to the United States from Brazil in 2001 and became a citizen in 2010. She loves the opportunities that this country has to offer. Among the people that we met for the first time were Mr. William C. Beckenbach from the Levin College of Urban Affairs whose wife, Mary, is a good friend of our Ms. Rose Wong. Mr. Beckenbach joked that his wife and he were "William and Mary" and had a college named after them. We really enjoyed talking to Mr. Carl Rak who is on the board of the Cleveland International Film Festival. We didn't know this, but "Time Magazine" ranked our film festival as the 5th best film festival in the world, right after the Sundance Film Festival. We said hello to Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman and former Lt. Governor Lee Fisher and shared a table with Mr. Edward F. Herman and Ms. Robin Thomas who work closely with our friend Mr. Jim Rokakis at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and with Ms. Barbara Hawkins, a good friend of Ms. Wong's who was very eager to say that she is definitely coming to our holiday party so we took her RSVP information on the spot.