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Out & About in Cleveland

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Planning for 2016 RNC Visit to Cleveland & ArtPlace's Jamie Bennett at the City Club of Cleveland

Our first event for Friday, September 19th, was a program at the Greater Cleveland Partnership titled "Fast Forward: Accelerating Progress for the 2016 RNC" featuring Mr. Joe Roman, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership; Mr. Terry Egger, President and CEO of the RNC host committee; and Mr. David Gilbert, President and CEO of Positively Cleveland. At this program we learned that no definite date has been set for the RNC aka Republican National Convention but it will probably be either June 28th or July 17th, 2016. All told, $250 million dollars are going to be spent here in Cleveland for food, hotels, transportation, mementos, etc. There will be 50,000 people visiting Cleveland for this event including 15,000 credentialled media people (the Super Bowl only brings 5,000) and at least 16,000 hotel rooms will be needed; so obviously the surrounding suburban cities will be utilized. What's more, the convention will cost $60 million but approximately $32 million has been raised so we are halfway there in paying the bill. In short, it would be no understatement to say that the 2016 RNC is going to be a huge project but the potential for Cleveland is huge also; Mr. Roman said that they want people to walk out of Cleveland and consider coming back with their investment dollars. It would also be good if people see things in Cleveland that they like, like what we will be doing to improve education,  and go home and talk about them and perhaps try to emulate them. In the immediate future, we can look forward to the Public Square Renovation to be completed in time as well as maybe 3 or 4 civic projects that Cleveland just hasn't gotten around to doing. One of these might be the improvements to the Lakefront Airport. A lot of time was devoted in this presentation to talking about how Cleveland was awarded the convention and it was said by Mr. Gilbert that it was basically because the Cleveland community displayed great passion in wanting the convention here. The RNC committee visited Cleveland and was amazed by the changes and the new upbeat spirit that were not here in 2007 when we tried for the 2008 convention. Mr. Roman said that "we didn't win the lottery here; we didn't get lucky". It was the result of 25 years of hard work of that produced such standouts as the Q, the theatre district, and Gateway. Plus, it helped that the International Children's Games in 2004 and the more recent Seniors Games and this year's Gay Games came off so well. Mr. Eggers told us that in the final vote for the location of the 2016 RNC, it was a walkaway for Cleveland and it wasn't even close! As far as potential citizen participation, there are working groups being formed to address such issues as transportation, security, and public relations. At this time, there are 17 working groups. The whole idea is to plug the right people into the working group best suited to them so that their talents can be utilized for everyone's advantage. On this day, the Greater Cleveland Partnership was packed with people and we made about 15 new contacts including Mr. Clyde Miles who told us how Ms. Margaret Wong assisted a woman from Russia who was here playing in a piano competition when she fell in love with a friend of his. With Ms. Wong's help she was allowed to remain here, she married Mr. Miles' friend and ended up playing the piano at Mr. Miles' own wedding. Mr. William R. Hasler of Erico said that he referred someone to us before and we are the best. Ms. Jinida L. Doba with Dorsey and Company recalled attending an event at the Cleveland Public Library a couple of years ago and heard Ms. Wong speak and was really impressed. In thinking back upon this program, we believe that Mr. Roman gave us all something good to think about when he talked about how we must adjust our attitudes and take pride in being residents of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio because "this will help us be better salesmen for our own region. We must tell people what is happening in our community." Our other event for the day was the Friday luncheon at the City Club of Greater Cleveland where the featured speaker was Mr. Jamie Bennett who is the Executive Director of ArtPlace America which is a collaboration of 14 foundations, 8 federal agencies, and 6 financial institutions. The purpose of ArtPlace America, according to its website, is "to position art and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, political, and economic fabric of communities. ArtPlace focuses its work on creative placemaking, the set of practices in which art and culture work intentionally to help to transform a place." It does this by "managing a grants program that supports creative placemaking projects in communities of all sizes; ...it seeks to understand, document, and disseminate successful creative placemaking practices through its research strategies; and it works to connect practitioners, organizations, and communities with one another." At the present time, ArtPlace America funds two Cleveland projects which are Upcycle St. Clair and Collinwood Rising. Ms. Nicole McGee, Project Manager at Upcycle St. Clair and Ms. Camille Maxwell, Assistant Director of Northeast Shores Development Corporation were also here to discuss these endeavors. Mr. Bennett made a splendid case for art acting as an economic stimulus for a troubled area by telling us about what happened when the green line was constructed in St. Paul, MN. Usually such construction causes a lot of disruption and delays and loss of income to local businesses but in this case business partnered with artists and 150 articles events were organized along the construction route. As a result, foot traffic increased, business actually went up, and the media designated it as being "cool". And thus the area became a destination rather than an avoidance. Visiting the City Club today was a tour organized by the Cleveland Council of World Affairs (CCWA) and the U.S. State Dept. composed of 24 foreign nationals who work at U.S. Embassies in 20 countries. They spent a week in Washington, D.C. as well as a week in Cleveland and were scheduled to return home after this last event. We were told about this program by Ms. Jane Myers, Global Youth Programs Officer with CCWA and Ms. Barbara J. Huff of the U.S. Dept. of State who were accompanying our visitors. We got to share a table with Mr. Sasa Brajovic from Montenegro and Ms. Mari Matsumura from Japan. Also sitting at our table was the charming family of Mr. Bennett including a relative by marriage who had immigrated to the United States from Holland but never became a citizen. In this case, the immigrant's wife actually encouraged us to give him one of our cards from Margaret W. Wong and Associates so we did and he took the whole thing (including our card) in stride. As we were leaving we also gave Mr. Bennett our contact information and he seemed very happy to receive it. Mr. Bennett impressed as being a person who really likes what he does and brings joy and enthusiasm to his job; he really wants to share his love of the arts with others. For example, during his presentation he pointed out that the Dept. of Defense spends twice as much money for military bands than the entire budget of the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) but the solution is not to cut back on the bands because they expose people to music but to double the money allocated to the NEA. This sounds good to us.

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