The 1970s jingle promoting Cleveland rings truer than ever today. “Cleveland’s a great place to live ‘cuz the best things in life are here,” was only sung by locals — but now people from other places are singing Cleveland’s praises. The economy is showing signs of a turnaround.
I recently spoke with fellow community member Jeff Epstein, Director of the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor (HTC). He said, “Cleveland’s a prime location for innovative health-tech and high-tech companies. The heart of Cleveland is a leading biomedical, health-care and technology region. It offers easy access to clinicians, researchers and state-of-the-art lab infrastructure inside world-class institutions. The cost of living is 30%-60% lower than that of Boston, Silicon Valley, and NYC.”
More great news for Cleveland is its strong track record of lucrative exits, with four start-ups acquired by publicly-traded companies in the last six months. Cleveland has over 75,000 medical and technical personnel and 180 health-tech and high-tech companies have launched their businesses here.
Tremendous Support For Entrepreneurs
Jumpstart has helped fund over 130 startups and has three active VC funds totaling $40 million, says their CEO Ray Leach. I asked Leach what makes Cleveland an attractive venue for tech headquarters. He said, “There are many factors. One of the most obvious is the lower cost of living (and doing business) in a city like Cleveland vs. Silicon Valley or one of the other major coastal innovation hubs. Tech startups aren’t profitable at first, so they rely on cash from investors to give them a ‘runway’ of time to prove their business model and start making money. Dollar-for-dollar, that runway is a lot longer in places that don’t have exorbitant real estate costs and correspondingly high employee salaries to compensate.”
Access To Capital
Traditionally, midwestern technology startups have struggled to find capital compared to startups that are closer to the West Coast, where the vast majority of venture capital investors are located. However, investors are starting to see the major opportunities here, creating more access to capital for startups in cities like Cleveland. A group of former Silicon Valley investors recently relocated to Columbus to form a new VC firm called Drive Capital that has already raised two VC funds totally $550 million. Leach told me that, “Cleveland is a very centralized location for doing business. As the investors at Drive Capital have pointed out in the past, Ohio is within a day’s drive of 60% of the U.S. GDP and 150 of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies. We take for granted sometimes how relatively cheap and easy it is to get from Cleveland to other major cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Indianapolis and Chicago, let alone other Ohio cities like Columbus and Cincinnati.”
High Quality Of Life
FodorsTravel recently spotlighted the entertainment, visual arts offerings, beautiful green spaces, vibrant music scene, expanding culinary scene and striking architecture in both the downtown and suburbs as a major reason to visit Cleveland.
An electric train (known as the rapid transit) makes it possible for suburbanites to travel downtown and to cultural centers without a car. Many ride their bikes from suburb to suburb, to metro parks and to the cultural events around University Circle. Cleveland has less traffic than other cities; we don’t need to spend a lot of time in the car to do everyday errands. That makes us more “green” than most.
We recently traded in our a garden-style apartment in metro D.C. for a four-bedroom home in Shaker Heights. The beautiful architecture in both east and west-side neighborhoods surprise friends who visit. In roughly 20 minutes from the suburbs, you can get enjoy a world-class orchestra and plays in gilded-ceiling historic buildings. Many young people are opting to live in Downtown Cleveland so they can walk to work and enjoy the night scene along Lake Erie.
As a native Clevelander who’s lived in big cities and returned, I have experienced the advantages of working and living in a small big city while raising my two kids. Our home on the east side of Cleveland is a 25-minute drive or transit ride to downtown, walking distance (or a five-minute car ride) for all my daily errands and grocery shopping, several expansive parks, multiple gyms, spas, malls, banks and doctors offices, community centers and multiple synagogues and churches. Outstanding public and private schools also make Cleveland ideal for young families starting out.
Cleveland’s Potential As The Next Technology Hub
Clevelanders are proud, hard-working and loyal to their city. That said, they need to promote themselves more. The city is a great example of how a former industrial powerhouse can adapt and diversify its economy using technology.
So here’s one Clevelander who’s glad to report that Cleveland’s a ripe, juicy summer plum just waiting to be picked. It offers a great quality of life for those who are open to living and working in the Midwest. For entrepreneurs and mid-to-large corporations, Cleveland is an attractive place to be. It’s time to call Cleveland a rising star among cities making a comeback.
This story originally appeared on Forbes.