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Cleveland R-O-C-K-S!

November 1, 1999
Related Topics: Featured Article
If you’re looking for a real rush—a shot of adrenaline to renew your faith in American business—take a trip to Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland.

The city is in the midst of a renaissance. Formerly undesirable parts of town, such as the warehouse district, have been renovated and given new life. There’s a new sports stadium by the lake. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is drawing tourists from all over the world. Things have changed a lot since the days when the city was in bankruptcy.

But as great as all that is, there’s much more for Cleveland to cheer about. And at times on the evening of September 23, it seemed as if all of Northeast Ohio was cheering. More than 700 HR professionals, CEOs and employees were stomping, whooping and whistling about business.

It all happened at NorthCoast ’99, the first of what is planned as an annual event to recognize the best places to work in Northeast Ohio. The event—presented by the Employers Resource Council (ERC) and Enterprise Development Inc. (EDI)—honored 99 employers. It was a privilege to be there, because the event was remarkable in many ways.

At one level, the evening was a showcase for cutting-edge HR practices. We heard about innovative benefit plans, creative staffing strategies, training initiatives, workforce-planning models and much, much more. Although many of the strategies being used aren’t new, the tactics are fresh and bold. It’s always heartening for me to hear about HR done well, but it’s especially heartening when HR is being done well in a broad spectrum of organizations.

Many of the winners are small companies. And although a few of the winners have recognizable names, most are lesser-known organizations that too rarely get the credit they deserve. These organizations—from manufacturing companies to financial services firms, hairstyling salons to restaurants—are the backbone of the economy.

The winners have a lot to be proud of. They recognize that employees are an organization’s greatest assets, and they are working with imagination and conviction to help employees perform at their best. Employees recognize that, too. Many of the winners were first nominated by employees. And employees were out in full force at the event, cheering and often sharing stories about why their companies are great places to work.

The event was simply inspiring. My hat is off to all the many people who made it happen, but especially Pat Perry, Suzanne Drake and Laura Sullivan at ERC and Kirk Neiswander and Ben Keller at EDI. I hope that other communities will follow their lead and find ways to focus on HR and business in such a positive way. (You can get more information at

In the meantime, specifics of the progressive HR work being done in Northeast Ohio will no doubt be included in future issues of Workforce. That’s because the ERC has recently expanded its member benefits to include a subscription to Workforce. I’m thrilled with the partnership because it means that we’ll have the chance to talk with the people doing such innovative work in Ohio, to survey employers and so on. I’m looking forward to learning from them, and to sharing what we learn. I can’t think of a better way to honor the spirit of NorthCoast ’99.

Workforce, November 1999, Vol. 78, No. 11, p. 10.

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