Cleveland economic development director wants to put people first
Tessa Jackson, who became Cleveland's director of economic development early last summer, has been trying to change the conversation around development in the city.
- "When you look at historic poverty rates, historic unemployment rates, [Cleveland's public subsidies] really haven't moved the bar," she said during budget hearings last month. "You can't spend half a billion dollars on economic development and not move the bar for anybody."
Catch up quick: Jackson arrived from New Orleans early last summer. She'd previously only been to Cleveland for professional conferences.
- "All I saw was my hotel and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," she joked.
Her development philosophy, she told Axios, is "people-centric."
- "Economic development traditionalists will tell you it's all about creating jobs and attracting jobs and helping to build companies," she said.
- "But I think you need to put people first. The question I ask is: Does this improve the lives of individuals and neighborhoods in terms of economic opportunity? My next question is: Who are we helping?"
What's next: Jackson applauded City Council's community benefits legislation and said she'd work with the Office of Equal Opportunity to create an "economic development scorecard" to evaluate projects based on community impact.
- "Are you creating living-wage jobs?" Jackson asked, for example. "Are you providing resources and amenities? Are you working in difficult-to-develop areas?"
The bottom line: The projects that score highest will be the ones that get the city's limited resources.
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