The June Amplify luncheon, held June 28 at Windows on the River, featured remarks from local business leaders who shared their optimism and excitement about downtown Cleveland. Discussing their own companies’ commitment to Cleveland, the speakers touted a growing list of Cleveland amenities as being key to attracting and retaining the talent they need to fuel their companies’ growth.
Michael Deemer, executive vice president of of Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA), provided an overview of his organization’s efforts to promote the viability of the downtown area as a place to live, work and play. DCA works with numerous stakeholders including business leaders, public officials, and real estate professionals to implement initiatives that improve the quality of life. “We’re working with our partners to attract more businesses to Cleveland the premier place to start, grow and relocate a business,” Deemer said.
Adam Speck, vice president of Quicken Loans Web Center, recently relocated his family to Cleveland from Detroit and echoed Deemer’s sentiments regarding downtown Cleveland’s appeal to its growing workforce. “Almost 300 team members live within three miles of the office,” Speck says. “We’re recruiting from companies and universities outside of Ohio. Bringing people into the city of Cleveland matters to us.”
Speck cited the importance of an interesting working space in addition to downtown amenities like restaurants and sporting events in attracting young professionals. Located in the Higbee Building, Quicken Loans occupies 35,000 feet of space that was carefully renovated to preserve the attributes of the historically significant building. Speck said that the call center will continue to expand, adding as many as 300-400 jobs in the next few years. “Dan Gilbert believes heavily in the City of Cleveland,” Speck added and said that the planned Q Transformation project will create even more jobs that bring more talent and more revenue to the city.
Speaking of entertainment opportunities, Shannon Lyons, chief operating officer of Flashstarts, agrees they are of paramount importance. “Studies have shown there is a correlation between the amount of entertainment and amenities and the success of the tech sector,” Lyons said. Cleveland’s appeal, particularly to young professionals, is helping Lyons and her team recruit companies from all around the world. Flashstarts recently announced the Cleveland 200 Initiative—a $5 million micro-venture fund focused on high-growth startups combined with a national marketing effort to attract companies to Cleveland. “We are going to prepare 200 companies with access to capital, mentorship, hands on professional services, connections to customers and access to talent.”
Young professionals want affordable living near work, taking advantage of a vibrant downtown environment and skipping the time it takes to commute. Lyons stressed that entrepreneurs are driven by a work-live-play lifestyle. Downtown Cleveland offers the restaurants, downtown living, nightlife and entertainment, arts and culture and that entrepreneurs are looking for, at a fraction of what it costs in other cities. “We believe we are experiencing the next cycle of density as an entrepreneurial hub,” Lyons said.
Brett Lindsey, president and chief operating officer of Everstream believes the downtown location of their headquarters positively influences their company culture and provides the interconnectivity they desire. Citing downtown’s energy, living spaces, restaurants, event spaces and access to sports venues, Lindsey commented, “It would be tough to maintain our culture and do what we do if we weren’t in downtown.”
Everstream, located in the Halle Building, has been leading the efforts to improve and upgrade the city’s technical infrastructure. The company partnered with the City of Cleveland to build the fiber network between the Q Arena and the Huntington Convention Center for the 2016 Republican National Convention. They also built the fiber network for another 40 downtown buildings and have partnered with Snip, a new Internet and cable service provider available to downtown residents, to bring free wifi to Public Square this fall “at a speed you have not seen before.”
Like the preceding speakers, Lindsey stressed Everstream’s commitment to downtown. His personal mantra Do what you say you will do is now part of Everstream’s company culture. “That mantra, as it relates to downtown, is that you you live, work, invest and do the best for our customers.”
Cheryl Wearsch, asset manager, Key Center, stated that downtown living and all it affords also appeals to a more seasoned demographic, not just millennials. The Millennia Companies, a development, management and construction company founded in 1995, recently purchased Key Center and moved the company headquarters from Valley View to downtown Cleveland. The Millennia Companies will soon occupy 40,000 square feet in the iconic building. In the past five years the company has more than doubled in size to 1000 employees, and managing 20,000 apartment units in 20 states.
Millennia’s downtown investments include 75 Public Square, a mixed-use project with luxury apartments and ground floor retail, and a similar development in the Garfield Building located at East 6th and Euclid. The Millennia Hospitality Group, a newer addition to the company’s portfolio, will operate six outlets by the end of 2017 including the highly anticipated Marble Room Steak and Raw Bar. The restaurant will occupy three floors of the Garfield Building, including the grand space that was most recently home to National City Bank. That space is expected to open in August and provide food, service and environment like nothing else currently offered in Cleveland.
The investments planned for Key Tower demonstrate Millennia’s commitment to downtown. The company will expand the level of service including additional food and beverage options and aesthetics like art, music and flowers, all of which provide a strategic advantage for their tenants. “We can help ourselves and other businesses to attract talented folks and retain them in Cleveland,” Wearsch said.
The Amplify luncheon was presented by Contempo Communications and Downtown Cleveland Alliance, with additional support from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Omni Media.