Our second event for Tuesday, January 22nd, was the annual New Year’s reception of the Northeast Ohio International Business Network (NEOIBN) that took place at Windows on the River down in the Flats and was sponsored by Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC. NEOIBN ‘s goal is to “stimulate economic growth in Northeast Ohio through international business.” On this occasion there was networking; tributes to Mr. Don Esarove, the founder of NEOIBN, who passed in late December of 2018; and a presentation by Mr. Robert W. Kennedy who, since January of 2017, has been Director of Port Control at the Cleveland Airport System.
During networking time, we were greeted by Ms. Beverly Ghent-Skrzynski, District Governor of Rotary International District 6630, who recalled that Ms. Margaret W. Wong was the recipient of her organization’s international service award several years ago. We also visited with Dr. Robert D. Hisrich, the Director of the Global Management Center and International Programs at KSU as well as Mr. David Clare, Foreign Exchange Associate at KeyBank. Lastly, we met three international students from KSU named Anit (from Nepal) and Arya and Garima (from India) who were there with us because they were interested in economics and international trade.
Our friend Mr. Dick Erickson presided over the program itself. The first part of it was devoted to honoring Mr. Don Esarove who, despite his accomplishments, was a very humble man who was loved by all.Accordingly, citations were presented to Mr. Brad Esarove on behalf of his late father. Among the organizations who bestowed the honors were the Cleveland World Trade Association Education Foundation; French American Chamber of Commerce; Confucius Institute; Northeast Ohio District Export Council/U.S. Export Assistance Center; British American Chamber of Commerce; and the Office of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. All of the representatives of these groups shared personal memories of Mr. Esarove including Dr. Anthony Yen who recalled how Mr. Esarove mentored him throughout the creation of the Confucius Institute and for many years before.
Soon, it was time for Mr. Kennedy’s address and he talked about different aspects of Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport including its history and changes in recent years in terms of passenger volume and different airlines. Mr. Kennedy said that a new CLE infrastructure master plan was in the process of being put together which will “provide for future development of the airport that will satisfy long-term demand for aviation services in a financially feasible manner and at the same time give consideration for aviation, environmental and socio-economic issues existing in the community.” He said that what motivated him to do his best to provide outstanding service were his observations about how much being able to travel meant to people. Therefore, it was all about connecting people to places, opportunities, and each other. To be sure, Mr. Kennedy was not afraid to take on some tough questions during the Q and A, including one about the problems that international travelers were having with customs. He admitted that this was a problem with no immediate solution but that he would continue to work on it as much as he could. Earlier in the evening, we asked Mr. Kennedy how many international travelers passed through Cleveland-Hopkins in 2018. Initially, he told us that he didn’t know but he would find out. In no more than an hour, through research on his iPhone, he was able to tell us that the figure was 225,193 up 27.79% from the year before!