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CEOs for Cities opens office at CSU

September 29, 2011

By Kristen Mott

CEOs for Cities has chosen Cleveland and the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at CSU to open its third office, with other offices located in Chicago and Washington.

CEOs for Cities is a non-profit organization composed of mayors, non-profit businesses, university administrators and business leaders. The members connect with each other at national meetings to develop ideas to improve their cities.

The Cleveland-based office opened on Aug. 15. Lee Fisher, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, is a Shaker Heights native and has a long-standing relationship with CSU and Ned Hill, the dean of the College of Urban Affairs. He also served as lieutenant governor of Ohio in the last administration.

Fisher said he felt it was important to open an office in his hometown.

“I believe that some of the most exciting economic changes are happening in Cleveland,” Fisher said. “I want to put those changes on a national spotlight.”

Fran DiDonato, the national director of partnerships and the talent dividend for CEOs for Cities and the new head of the Cleveland office, shared a similar opinion.

“He [Fisher] has a lot of connections and relations in Cleveland and Ohio,” DiDonato said. “It makes sense to capitalize on those relationships.”

The first goal for CEOs for Cities is to transform Cleveland into a cluster city. Fisher said a cluster city is made up of a group of leaders from different sectors within the city. These leaders create and share ideas for making their city the best.

“People can come together and talk about things that matter,” DiDonato said.
Cleveland will be the first of the three office locations of CEOs for Cities to take up the cluster city project. DiDonato hopes that a strong model will be created, which can then be exported and applied to other cities.

CEOs for Cities also has two outreach programs for all cities involved in their organization.

To encourage cities to work toward higher educational achievements, CEOs for Cities has announced the Talent Dividend Prize. This program will award a $1 million prize to the city that makes the greatest increase in its post secondary degrees per one thousand population by 2014.

Fifty-seven cities are competing for the prize, including Cleveland. DiDonato noted that the college attainment for Cleveland is 25.7 percent, and the goal is to increase that number to 26.7 percent. By doing so, she said that $1.6 billion will be put back into the economy through the creation of new jobs and expanding the workforce.

“If we’re not educating people, then our economy will suffer,” DiDonato said.

In July, CEOs for Cities launched Change by Us in New York City. Change by Us is a program that will develop a network of grassroots leaders and involve citizens in making their city a better place to live.

DiDonato said the New York City government can pose questions to citizens, who can then become engaged in their community and co-create solutions to problems that are impacting their city.

Students will also have a chance to become involved in the organization. Mark Ebner, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Urban Planning, is a graduate assistant to DiDonato.
DiDonato said she would like internships and volunteering opportunities to be offered in the future, as well as regional events that can serve as learning opportunities for students.

CEOs for Cities has conducted research with CSU in the past, and DiDonato hopes that in the future research initiatives will involve students.