Northeast Ohio's bragging rights

By Tom Chema and Paul Dolan

In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, the road to economic prosperity will be paved by college graduates.

Which is why Ohio's well-documented economic ills should come as no surprise if one knows that the Buckeye State ranks 41st in the nation in the percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree. It is imperative that we recruit -- and employ -- many more college students than we are now.

To that end, Northeast Ohio's business, civic, philanthropic and higher education leaders have joined forces to launch College 360° -- a four-year, $5 million cross-sector initiative to increase the region's supply of college-educated workers.

Not every region of the globe can meet the diverse and high social, economic and personal standards of people with a college degree. So what kind of place would be attractive to college students and graduates? Imagine a region that is home to the following:

• Multiple five-star restaurants and a nightclub scene that dates back to the early days of rock 'n' roll

• A research complex that is helping send man and machine to the deepest reaches of space

• A 33,000-acre national park

• A nationally recognized art show, and two internationally known art museums

• Historic theaters offering both big-name acts and edgy entertainment

• The world's most prominent heart doctors

• Sports' biggest emerging star

• One of the world's finest orchestras

• Companies that are world leaders in industries ranging from electronic books, steel and nanotechnology to paints and pipes

• Islands that shimmer in blue waters

• Wineries that are home to award-winning vintages and spectacular views

• Genetic researchers pioneering the next revolution in health care

• Multiple outdoor music venues.

Would such a place be appealing to college students and graduates? Of course it would. But only -- and this is the important part -- if they know about such a place.

What do you know about Northeast Ohio? Do you think of Northeast Ohio as being home to these very assets and so many more? What do people in Atlanta, Madrid, Santiago or Shanghai know about Northeast Ohio? Could they find it on a map -- let alone identify any of the attributes cited above?

Northeast Ohio's assets should be sources of great pride and give us confidence to market ourselves and win the talent wars. Without promotion, the only messages heard are those generated by the natural flow of events: reports on poverty levels, unemployment rates and government scandals. Some days, it seems our self-esteem is so battered we are more likely to apologize for our shortcomings than toot our own horn.

Clearly, recruiting talent to Northeast Ohio is a challenge. Many factors influence decisions to come here -- including cost, educational goals, family history and location. But thankfully, every year we have an opportunity to do just that with hundreds of thousands of fresh targets -- soon-to-be high school graduates who must decide where to continue their education.

How would a prospective college student's impression of Northeast Ohio as place to live, learn and work for two or four years be altered if she knew she could take advantage of the assets above -- literally dance, surf, swim, eat, drink, play, study and explore Northeast Ohio Style? How many more might enroll here?

And if these young men and women, once enrolled, were regularly engaged in activities (including internships) that took them off the campuses, how many would want to stay upon graduation?

These are not idle questions. To reverse our economic decline, Northeast Ohio must become home to more college graduates. This means encouraging more local teenagers to go to college here and attracting thousands more from across the globe to Northeast Ohio. This is a ready-made market that is replenished every year. Northeast Ohio must reach out to this market with a message that says,''You can achieve all of your dreams here -- and enjoy yourself, too.'' It is a ''brain gain'' message that College 360° is beginning to deliver and will continue to deliver into the future.

If you want to help us make it easier to ''Enroll, Engage and Employ'' college students in Northeast Ohio, we hope you will signal your interest by registering at

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