Realizing Our Potential
Imagine if you will, it is summer of 2033. What is the experience of a newly arrived young family that has just flown into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, direct from Shanghai, China, for the first time? What will this family find most striking? Will it be the array of Fortune 1000 Aerospace Companies that have established innovation centers around the NASA Glenn Research Center? Will it be the buzz of the young startups looking to capitalize on the evolving and dynamic industries spanning from energy sustainability to deep space communication and propulsion?
Or will it be the integrated multi-model transit network that is bringing cutting edge solutions such as hydrogen powered mass transit buses, automated drone-based cargo delivery, or electrified vertical take-off and landing vehicles?
Or will it be the outdoor public spaces, the vibrancy, the arts, and the sculptures that showcase the creative vibrancy and the unique aerospace and aviation history of the region?
The Aerozone District is a canvas upon which the citizens of Northeast Ohio have an opportunity to paint their economic vision. This month, the Aerozone Alliance is kicking off a major exercise that has been many years in making. We are aspiring to envision a new comprehensive blueprint for the Aerozone District. As proud residents of Northeast Ohio, we believe that our gateway to our community can be significantly more impressive than what it is today. For far too long, this ~50 square mile area that sits at the intersection of approximately a half a dozen municipalities has lacked a cohesive vision.
We have an incredible array of assets: the third oldest and only 1 of 10 NASA Centers in the world; Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Ohio’s busiest airport; a Ford plant and a GM plant; Weston’s brand new Forward Innovation Center, soon to be home to 1.3 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution capability; the IX Center, at 1.2 million square feet, one of the largest exhibition halls in the country; Baldwin Wallace University, a premier post-secondary education facility; The Orbit: a new boutique hotel; and so much more!
Furthermore, it is also worth noting that we have more than a little wind on our back. Just in the last several months, we are seeing massive investments and developments. Here is an abbreviated list:
- The airport is in the process of unrolling their $2 billion renovation plan
- Recently there have been several airline expansions at the airport (Aer Lingus, Frontier)
- The airport will soon have a new leader who can bring a powerful outside perspective
- Around the airport, we are seeing major private sector investments (Weston, IX Center)
- We are seeing incredible public sector investments (RTA Rapid – Red Line, 480/77 Interstate Investments, Brook Park Road Resurfacing, establishment of a sustainable Micro Grid)
- Simultaneous master planning efforts in North Olmsted, Berea, and Brook Park
- And more innovation opportunities: NASA Communications Building and NASA Research Support Building; and a $235 million human performance and training center, the Blue Abyss complex
But even with all these assets and developments, we are not quite on the path where we need to be to unlock the full potential. These many assets and efforts to some extent continue to be individual achievements, rather than a congruent effort to create a greater collective whole.
We believe that a comprehensive master plan can be that catalyst that: (1) enables the psychological alignment of our key leaders through the design of a shared vision, (2) defines and integrates a mosaic of tangible projects, and (3) prompts coordinated public and private investments.
For too long, we as a region have been too passive in realizing our collective potential. The time is ripe, and the time is now, for us to redefine what we see as our potential, and work together to aggressively make that aspiration a reality.