By Eric Lofquist for Smart Business Magazine
December 2015 Cleveland Edition
Remember this catchy song from the popular 1970s TV commercial? “The Best Things in Life Are Right Here in Cleveland” paid tribute to some of the reasons that Cleveland’s a great place to live. Looking back on the nostalgic tune, a lot of the city’s selling points still hold up.
For the last three years, I’ve had the honor of judging the regional and national EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® competitions in the distribution and manufacturing category. This experience has been enlightening, and my most significant realization might seem like the most basic — businesses operating in Northeast Ohio should be proud of how our region compares to the rest of the U.S.
This is particularly true in local manufacturing, which is a more viable and diverse sector than ever. Statewide, industrial companies account for nearly 20 percent of revenue, and our strong recovery from the last recession is evidence that manufacturers are continuing to multiply and thrive because of technology and innovation.
Northeast Ohio lesson
What I’ve learned as an EY judge from my exposure to hundreds of highly successful companies across the country is that Northeast Ohio firms can promote more aggressively the benefits of being located here and discuss how to position the region as economically competitive.
From our incredible transportation infrastructure to our affordable cost of living and doing business, Cleveland rivals or surpasses any major metropolitan area or coastal city.
Affordable access to excellent business support resources is well within reach here, whether your enterprise is emerging or established. Accounting, banking, legal, marketing and other professional service providers are abundant and as qualified as any I’ve encountered.
Together with our world-class arts, entertainment, recreation and health care systems, the quality of life here has growing appeal that helps attract and retain top talent.
How can we leverage all these advantages?
- Greater Cleveland business leaders and their organizations are every bit as savvy as their big-city counterparts. We should present ourselves this way.
- The opportunity to create a prosperous business in this area or to grow a career with a Northeast Ohio organization is limited only by self-fulfilling prophecy.
- We should invest in local companies and promote their stories.
- We should form closer alliances with educational institutions that ready students for jobs in our region.
- We should embrace our Midwestern values. As the “Best Things in Life…” lyrics go, we’re a big-league city and we’re little-league, too.
The best customers, suppliers and partners are all right here. Investing together in education and training will keep manufacturing and other jobs local and enable us to live up to the words of a classic Cleveland melody.
Eric Lofquist is co-owner, president and CEO of Magnus International Group Inc., an award-winning sustainable global products company. He is a regional and national EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® whose business has been ranked No. 1 on the Weatherhead 100.