Today we had a nice visit from the clover
folks, Anastasia, David and Don. They were great, knowledgeable, friendly, and we had a wonderful time experimenting with coffee together. We began with a journey inside the Tanzanian bean to find out the optimal number of seconds of dwell time that it took to deliver the characteristic Tanzanian punch, and finished up with a similar exploration of Yemen, one of my favorites.
While I loved the clover machine, when it came time for me to decide if I was going to buy it, I had to tell them to pack the coveted-coffee-toy back into its crate and take it back to Seattle. So sad. But, Phoenix Coffee's bank account, here in humble, poorest-city-in-the-nation Cleveland just isn't ready for an $11,000 coffee brewer. It's going to have to remain the domain of the coffee bigger shots on the West Coast for now.
Which leads me to the real subject of this post, a film I attended this evening, hosted by Future Heights, screened at the Cedar Lee Theatre, called "Making Sense of Place, Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City"
. The film was a collaboration between Northern Light Productions and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
So, readers who are not Clevelanders, you can stop reading here. But for those of you who are interested in the fate of Cleveland, for whatever perverse reason, keep reading...
Cleveland, once the fifth largest city in the nation, is now officially the nation's poorest, and boasts a population of 500,000 and shrinking. After 80 minutes of birds-eye-view perspective on our city's economic bleakness, the continuous population exodus to the suburbs, the problems with our education system, I stumbled down the theatre steps and bumped into Peggy Spaeth, director of Heights Arts. We chatted, pulled our coats around us and walked to our cars. When optimistic, creative minds are presented with huge problems, solutions inevitably bubble. Peggy pointed at an expanse of blank brick wall across the street... "I want a big mural there". She said. I pointed at the empty formerly Starbucks space next to the theatre "I want to open my tea house idea there." We bantered about art and coffee being part of the solutions to Cleveland's problems, only half-jokingly.
What the #$%! is the solution to Cleveland's crisis? I don't think anyone knows. I know we have a myriad of civic leaders working diligently on this problem. But the feeling of slow-motion suffocation continues. Concrete solutions are difficult to find, but as I reflect on it, I can describe the qualities I think a viable solution (or solutions) would have to have to WORK in the unique economy and culture of Cleveland. I have grown up here. I think I understand the Cleveland mentality, our conservatism, and our optimism. So here's a shot:
- Something that can happen in baby steps, and does not require a quantum leap. Because Cleveland is not a quantum leap kind of place.
- The solution must come from the fabric of which our communities are already woven. It can't be gambling, or high-tech, or something that seems foreign or imported or invented by the higher-ups. It has to come from our civic "soil", and be more-or-less home grown.
- Something that is inspired, yet maybe obvious, that maybe was there all along but we overlooked it.
- It might be putting a new spin on something old and traditional, something that people know and trust already.
- It might involve renovating buildings or old, outdated facilities. It might involve "green building" or "environmental technologies" that also have short-term financial benefits.
- It has to be something that many different people can be involved in, on many different levels, to facilitate grass roots involvement and excitement.
Whatever Cleveland embraces to help pull us out of our economic doldrums, it will have to be something that a lot of people can "get" quickly, without a complicated explanation. Like the other day when I mentioned "barista trading cards" to one of our baristas. She got it immediately. It didn't need further explanation. I'm not saying barista trading cards are the answer to Cleveland's problems. I'm just saying that something with a quick and elegant explanation would be the most likely to catch on.
So that's my crack at economic development brainstorming. Please let me know if the above thoughts ring true to any of you!