Sometimes the thorniest problems require an outside-the-box solution. Faced with the daunting task of breathing new life into Northeast Ohio’s underserved communities, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish took just such a bold approach with his May announcement of the Neighborhood Surge Program.
Starting with Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, this pilot program will lavish a concentrated influx of county resources to one neighborhood-in-need at a time.
“Our existing programs really help people, but we have a lot of places to cover,” says Budish. “It’s a little like peanut butter. If you spread it too thin, there won’t be enough impact in any one area.”
In short, Cuyahoga County is all-in on Central. Over the next year, resources will pour into this overlooked neighborhood on the outskirts of downtown Cleveland in an effort to right as many wrongs as possible and bring about meaningful change for everyone living there.
It all starts with expanding employment opportunities for Central residents. That includes training and development for in-demand positions, encouraging local partners to prioritize hiring from within the Central community, and even providing summer job opportunities for Central youth looking to gain work experience.
The Neighborhood Surge Program also hopes to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship through small business loans. Whether a small business needs guidance getting off the ground or exploring expansion options, the county wants to lend a helping hand.
Budish also plans to address the area’s relative lack of online connectivity. In today’s world, consistent internet access is a critical component of educational and economic success. As such, with thousands of Central households lacking this vital connectivity, the resulting digital divide is just devastating. The Neighborhood Surge Program aims to remedy this by providing reliable, affordable internet options to more than 70% of Central residents.
Rounding out the surge agenda are other initiatives such as road and bridge improvements, financial literacy programs, planting more trees throughout the community, repairing and remodeling the Cleveland Central Recreation Center and readying vacant Central land for shovel-ready development.
More than anything, though, the Neighborhood Surge Program proves that Cuyahoga County isn’t afraid to dream big in mapping out a better future for its residents.
“Focusing on one particular area where the need is greatest creates the opportunity to make a huge impact,” says Budish. “We still have to see if it works, but I’m very hopeful that this will be a model for other action that we take in the future.”