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Northeast Ohioans flock to national work training program

WorkAdvance, a national program that provides low-income and low-skilled individuals with employment training, in conjunction with Towards Employment, a Cuyahoga County-based employment readiness agency, and seven other collaborators, has enrolled 465 local participants in its training program.

Enrollment began in June. The participants are receiving skills training and career services in manufacturing and healthcare. Rebecca Kusner, director of WorkAdvance, says two-thirds of the Cuyahoga County participants are from Cleveland.
The WorkAdvance program is part of a study to show that low-skill and low-income people with barriers to employment can meet companies’ needs if they are offered coordinated skills training and career coaching. “Often, people get GED services, but not technical training,” says Kusner. “WorkAdvance puts together all the services people need to not only get a job, but continue along a career pathway so they don’t end up back on public assistance.”
Northeast Ohio is one of four sites nationwide in the study. The program operates through federal funding from the Social Innovation Fund and under a local investment from the Fund for Our Economic Future.
Manufacturing and health care are two areas most in need of trained workers, Kusner says. “We talked to employers in both fields and asked them where they feel the pain,” she explains, adding that qualified welders were particularly in demand in Northeast Ohio.
Participants receive training at places like Tri-C, Lincoln Electric, and Lakeland Community College. Kusner reports that 30 percent of those participants in jobs after training have already received wage increases.

Source: Rebecca Kusner
Writer: Karin Connelly

Community development organizations merge, unite efforts across Cleveland

Three prominent community development groups in Cleveland have merged, and staffers say the resulting alliance will help strengthen community revitalization efforts across the city, foster more unified advocacy, and allow for greater efficiency in citywide efforts.

Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI), a community development intermediary that provides grants and technical assistance to community development corporations (CDCs), has merged with Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (CNDC) and LiveCleveland. CNDC is a trade association of CDCs; LiveCleveland helps to market city neighborhoods.

That might sound like a mouthful of acronyms to the average city resident, but Joel Ratner, President of NPI, says the collaboration really is about improving Cleveland's neighborhoods.

"We'll have a greater ability to coordinate the marketing of neighborhoods along with advocacy, capacity building and all the other things we've traditionally done," he says. "This is really about uniting the strands of community development across the city in a way that's integrated and strategic rather than separate."

For example, says Ratner, CDCs will be able to have a stronger voice in education reform and other efforts that affect the entire city, residents will see an increased marketing presence, and CDC employees will benefit from shared services like healthcare. It adds up to more effective efforts to improve all of Cleveland.

"Our mission is to foster communities of choice and opportunity throughout Cleveland," says Ratner, who acknowledges that NPI will still only have resources to provide core operating support to a subset of city neighborhoods. "There are lots of ways we can play a role in lifting up all CDCs and neighborhoods."

CNDC Director Colleen Gilson says that while the merger idea was far from popular among CDCs at first -- they feared losing their independence -- individual leaders saw the value in fostering a citywide community development network that provides more effective services to all neighborhoods, not just a select few.

The merger will be publicly rolled out in September, with NPI moving into its new offices in the Saint Luke's project at Shaker Boulevard and E. 116th by January.

Source: Joel Ratner
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Software Craftsman Guild launches boot camp in Akron

The Akron-based Software Craftsman Guild (SWC) has opened the first regional software development boot camp featuring intensive training for seven apprentices over 12 weeks.
“There is a severe shortage of qualified software development talent nationally,” says Eric Wise, President at SWC. “Our hiring network partners struggle with finding enough talent for their staffing goals and are reaching out to organizations like ours to identify intelligent and motivated people to fast track into the skill sets that are in demand.”
Wise walks through what participants will experience in the boot camp, saying the program is broken down into various technical aspects. “This program is very intense and besides the full-time work in the lab with the mentors, apprentices typically put in another 20 to 30 hours per week doing project work.”
Ultimately, Wise believes participants will benefit most by being surrounded by fellow apprentices who are in the same situation. “The best thing for the apprentices is that they are with up to a dozen other people who are going through the same learning curve that they are,” he explains. “They have a relatively consequence-free environment to experiment and really dive down into the material that they can't get from other sources.”
Various experts in the field are involved in the program, including Eric Ward who has a strong Java background. “He will be launching a parallel cohort this fall in the Java and open source stacks,” Wise says. Rounding out the team are Sarah Dutkiewicz and David Basarab who have both found success in consulting. If others would like to drop by, Wise says they are welcome. “We have an open door policy for IT professionals in our region to come in, visit and do presentations for the apprentices so that they can hear other voices besides ours and learn as much as they can about the field they are getting into.”
Wise and his team are excited to be part of the growing entrepreneurial scene throughout the state, especially in Akron. “Our region has been doing a great job through incubators and other initiatives to move the economy more towards knowledge work,” he says, noting their special place in meeting the technical talent gap. “We are proud to be retooling existing talent to place where needed as we bring brains into the region from other states.”
Source: Eric Wise
Writer: Joe Baur

Lorain County Community College launches new entrepreneurial networking group

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) has launched the Fostering Entrepreneurial Business Education Networking Group (FEBE) for current and aspiring entrepreneurs of Northeast Ohio to expand their resources and contacts.
“The group is open to all entrepreneurs of Northeast Ohio,” explains Janice Lapina, Program Manager at LCCC. “There will be entrepreneurs telling their stories along with a presentation from a local resource, answering your questions as an entrepreneur.”
FEBE will meet every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Entrepreneurial Innovation Center at LCCC. During the meeting, entrepreneurs will discuss how they started their venture, take part in a question and answer period, and network with their colleagues.
Lapina credits the Great Lakes Innovation & Development Enterprise (GLIDE), the Small Business Development Center and Blackstone LaunchPad for the creation of FEBE. “These three entities work together to get entrepreneurs and resources to present at the weekly meetings,” says Lapina. Naturally, the three organizations all have similar goals to FEBE.
“FEBE has been established to foster entrepreneurship in northeastern Ohio and to encourage growth of startups and existing businesses by information sharing, networking and inspiration,” Lapina explains. “FEBE reaches out to entrepreneurs, the community and students by providing entrepreneurial business education and promoting economic growth.”
Lapina continues, saying FEBE is working to bring together “individuals to help support and grow entrepreneurial ventures in Northeast Ohio, inform and educate attendees on entrepreneurship and provide a free platform for new and existing entrepreneurs.” She encourages interested readers to register for this free program here.

Those who do may have the opportunity to be part of a special movement within the region.
“Through community involvement and entrepreneurial networking, the program promotes economic and community stability within Northeast Ohio.”
Source: Janice Lapina
Writer: Joe Baur

Blue Ash-based Gaslight leads effort to create training program for Ruby app developers

Tech talent in Cincinnati is in high demand but in short supply in some areas. And as the local tech startup economy grows, so does the need for cutting-edge developer talent.

One local mobile and web app development company is leading an effort to develop talent in its corner of the tech world. Blue Ash-based Gaslight is teaming up with Cincinnati-area industry and entrepreneurial leaders to start a training program for app developers using the Ruby on Rails platform.

Gaslight specializes in developing apps through Ruby on Rails. The growing company, which has more than a dozen developers, creates apps and other software applications for growing startups and established brands.

Gaslight co-founder and Ruby developer Bill Barnett says the idea is a practical one. Ruby has become a popular app development platform, and it's become harder for Ruby developers, including Gaslight, to keep up with client demand.

"There is a need for Ruby on Rails support that the market is not meeting at the moment," he says.

The training program is aimed at bringing new developers into the field, and would last about six months. This type of web development school is emerging in several cities across the United States—gSchool in Denver is one of the best known. GSchool is a model for Cincinnati to follow, Barnett says.

"We want to create an avenue for people who want to get into software development, and maybe come from other disciplines," Barnett says. "They might be a recent college graduate who has a degree in medicine or law but has an entrepreneurial inkling. They could be returning from overseas, transitioning from a military career."

Gaslight is still in the planning stages, but it has a record of leadership in the Cincinnati web community, and has hosted several developer Meetups and is the lead organizer of the Queen City Merge conference. Gaslight is working with a number of interested groups to get it off the ground, including NeoGirl Develop It and The Brandery.

No firm date has been set for the training program's launch, but a goal is to start a group of 20-25 students by late this year or early next.

Find out more about Gaslight and what it has to offer at Web School Cincinnati.

By Feoshia H. Davis

Xavier MBA course links entrepreneurs, business students to fuel growth

Entrepreneurship might be in the blood, but success takes more than passion. It also takes a head for business, and there are tried steps that every business should take to go from concept to reality.

An entrepreneurship course at Xavier University pairs the region's startups with MBA students for a partnership of theory and real-world application. The course, ENTR 668, is an extension of the University's X-LAB (Xavier Launch-a-Business) competition. X-LAB was founded by Xavier's Williams College of Business.

"We've learned through X-LAB that 90 percent of our businesses understand their idea, and are passionate about it, but they don't how to take it to market," says professor Joe Carter, X-LAB's Director. "That's a gap we can fill at Xavier."

As part of X-LAB, finalists meet with potential investors and receive training and consulting services during an 18-week process. Once that ends, ENTR 668 students choose a handful of businesses from the finalists for more intense consultation.

"The MBA students, along with a business advisory board, interview the X-LAB finalists and decide which businesses they are going to help," Carter says.

Each business can have a number of students assigned to it, depending on its needs. Some have had up to eight advisors. The businesses that have benefited from XLAB include the 3D printing company 3DLT and Ahalogy (formerly Pingage), a results-oriented content marketing system.

Students work with the business for a semester, but there are plans to expand it to two semesters in the near future, Carter says. There is no cost for these services for the business.

Student consulting work runs the gamut, from developing marketing plans to business model development and verification to market expansion.

"We'll have students working late, on the weekends or after midnight because they are so invested in these businesses," Carter says.

The business owners aren't the only beneficiaries. Students—most whom are older professionals—win too.

"Businesses bring their knowledge and have practical work experience," Carter says. "We see this as a huge way to differentiate our program. Our students have all these business tools, but in this course, they have to know which tool to pull out of the toolbox."

By Feoshia H. Davis

Talbert House and ESCC combine efforts to help Cincy nonprofits

After a combined 120 weeks of courses geared toward nonprofit leadership and development, Talbert House and Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati have decided to join forces and combine their programs into one. 

Beginning in September, the two nonprofits will begin the Executive Curriculum for Emerging Leaders through the newly created Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati. 

“I think the fact that we were two organizations in similar spaces in the marketplace trying to do similar things as it relates to leadership education and development—it got to a point of is there a way for us to really work together on this?” says Andy McCreanor, executive director and CEO of ESCC. 

The goal is to offer services to other nonprofits—large or small—so they can gain the skills and education necessary to position their organizations for community-wide success. 

“The true value of The Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati will be shown by how well nonprofits perform in the community, whether you’re a nonprofit, someone receiving services from a nonprofit, a community investor or a corporate partner looking for a socially responsible way to impact the lives of people,” McCreanor says. “The Institute offers great potential for participants and partners to receive a solid return on their time and investment.” 

McCreanor says the most enjoyable part for him is graduation. It's a day when he gets the chance to hear class participants talk about their growth and increased expertise when it comes to successfully operating their nonprofit. And come May 2014, he says he hopes to hear of many more success stories.

“The idea is that nonprofits would essentially see what we call a no-wrong-door approach to leadership education and development—that whether you’re a large or small nonprofit, that coming to the nonprofit leadership institute, you’d be able to find the subject matter, the program, the course that suits your needs,” McCreanor says. “Not all nonprofits are created equally, so the idea is that the institute would allow a nonprofit to find the program or development that is important to them.”

By Brittany York

MidTown Cleveland establishes endowment to further boost area development

The two square miles of real estate between downtown Cleveland and University Circle are bursting with development. To ensure that work continues to flourish, a local nonprofit has established an endowment fund.

Last month, economic development corporation MidTown Cleveland, Inc. announced the creation of the MidTown Cleveland, Inc. Endowment Fund at the Cleveland Foundation. The fund, under the foundation's guidance, proposes to build a sustainable revenue source to secure continued activity in the burgeoning district. This will include promotion of the health-tech corridor, a three-mile expanse of hospitals, business incubators, educational institutions and high-tech companies situated within MidTown.

The growing tech corridor isn't the only project the fund will support, notes MidTown chairman John Melchiorre. The group plans to leave other "footprints" on the community as well, be they demolishing old buildings, planting flowers along Euclid Avenue or helping transform distressed properties into job-creating enterprises.

"The Cleveland Foundation has been a leading supporter of the revitalization of Midtown, so this is just the latest way our two organizations have joined forces for the betterment of that neighborhood," said Kaye Ridolfi, senior vice president of advancement at the Cleveland Foundation.

Founded by Cleveland businessman Mort Mandel and others some 30 years ago, MidTown Cleveland has helped develop the area into a business district home to 600 companies and 18,000 employees. Executive director Jim Haviland views MidTown as part of the city's renaissance, and believes the fund will sustain the region for decades to come.

"It helps us to continue the role we play" within the neighborhood, says Haviland.

Sources: John Melchiorre, Jim Haviland, Kaye Ridolfi
Writer: Douglas J. Guth

Northeast Ohio company praised as leader in Rust Belt's "green renaissance"

In a recent GreenBiz story, Megatrends: The power behind Eaton’s global green growth, writer Anna Clark explores Cleveland’s history as a major manufacturing center since the time of John D. Rockefeller and its subsequent decline. 
But one of the city’s largest companies, Eaton Corp., is a proponent for efficiency, reliability, safety, and sustainability that is leading to a potential “green renaissance” in the Rust Belt.
The company has built a larger campus to focus on more growth locally.  Their commitment to green initiatives was a primary focus during the initial build.
“Consistent with Eaton's commitment to sustainability, the new building was designed to consume 40 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than a conventional building of smaller scale. The rainwater reuse system is expected to significantly cut water consumption, and a high-efficiency glass-curtain wall system maximizes the use of daylight while optimizing thermal comfort within interior spaces. Eaton Center eventually will accommodate more than 1,000 of the 1,800 Cleveland-area employees, and is expected to earn its LEED certification within the next few months,” notes Clark.

Cleveland's HealthLine seen as transportation model

Cleveland's new Regional Transit Authority HealthLine transformed a 46-minute trip along the nine-mile corridor into a route with its own reserved lanes, and through traffic lights that are programmed to give the busses priority. Fares are paid via vending machines at the 40 stops along the route.

The innovative approach to urban transportation has not gone unnoticed in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Writer Jon Schmitz praises Cleveland for its dedicated route that connects downtown with the Cleveland Clinic in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, Cleveland’s HealthLine bus route could be a model for Pittsburgh.
“The $197 million project literally remade Euclid Avenue, replacing ancient underground infrastructure and crumbling sidewalks, reconstructing the road surface, adding station kiosks and landscaping medians between the stops.”
Schmitz goes on to detail other aspects that make the line a benefit to both riders and the surrounding community.

"The organization aggressively assembled land, removed blighted buildings and developed stringent zoning in anticipation of improved transit in the corridor," notes Schmitz.

Burton D. Morgan Foundation releases latest round of grants

Last month, the northeast Ohio-based Burton D. Morgan Foundation announced grants totaling $982,500 that will support a wide array of youth, collegiate and adult entrepreneurship endeavors.
“The Board meets three times each year to consider grants to support strategically positioned entrepreneurship initiatives in the northeast Ohio region,” explains Deborah Hoover, President and CEO of the Foundation. “These grants reflect our best thinking on how we can foster entrepreneurship in our region and help to create a pipeline of entrepreneurially-minded individuals who will help reinvent the economy through new ventures and fresh approaches to solving problems.”
Recipients include the Fund for Our Economic Future, BioEnterprise and Akron Public Schools. A complete list of awardees is available at the fund’s official website, bdmorganfdn.org.
Regarding how the funds will be used, Hoover says all recipients will be subject to the detailed agreements that govern each grant. “The grant purposes reflect a variety of strategies aimed at advancing entrepreneurship in the region.” These strategies will ultimately help grow and support Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The response from the entrepreneurial community throughout the state, Hoover says, has been overwhelmingly positive and upbeat, with notable excitement about the future. “As I have traveled to other regions of the nation in recent months sharing our story, people are fascinated to hear about the entrepreneurial spirit that is growing in our region and excited to learn how Northeast Ohio has come together to rekindle its entrepreneurial base,” notes Hoover. “The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is proud to be part of this unfolding and vibrant story of determination and resurgence.”
Source: Deborah Hoover
Writer: Joe Baur

Ohio scholar developing automated monitoring system for nation's pipelines

Ohio scholar and researcher, Vijay Asari, is developing an automated monitoring system for the state’s pipelines to ensure safe operation. Over two million miles of pipes buried beneath the ground throughout the country stand to benefit from Asari’s work.
“Since none of the areas through which pipelines run are to be used for other construction activities, it needs to be monitored whether the right-of-way of the pipeline is encroached upon at any point of time,” explains Asari. “Rapid advances made in the area of camera and sensor technology have enabled the use of video acquisition systems to monitor the right-of-way of pipelines.”

Despite advancements, there is still work to be done.
Asari’s main objective includes a enhancing pipeline images to help workers better monitor them and differentiate them from other objects on the scene. This will help prevent future leaks that can devastate the surrounding habitat.
“Pipeline leaks may cause severe damage in terms of destruction of plants, agriculture and water resources near the locations where oil leaks occur,” says Asari. “Losses worth several million dollars are incurred by pipeline companies when pipeline leaks or damages occur due to the intrusion of heavy equipment and machinery on the pipeline right-of-way.”
Research is taking place in the University of Dayton’s Vision Lab to develop new algorithms for real-time applications in the areas of signal processing, image processing, computer vision, pattern recognition, machine learning, artificial neural networks and bio-mimetic object-vision and recognition. For Dayton, means the possibility of new jobs. Asari says the Vision Lab is garnering the attention of large companies that are interested in the project in order to establish relationships. “This will lead to the possibility of building a system development cluster to build deployable systems suitable for commercial applications,” says Asari. “This would in turn bring the possibility of generating several jobs in the region.”
Several phases are included in the project, which Asari estimates will take five years. “Simultaneously, we are also planning to develop oil leak detection, pipeline damage detection, and natural resources damage detection techniques for the protection of our natural resources and provide security and safety to our people and facilities.”
Source: Vijay Asari
Writer: Joe Baur

Cincinnati Digital Xchange explores latest strategies, techniques in digital marketing

Top digital marketing trends, techniques and strategies are ever-evolving. New tools, networks, devices and technologies make the rapidly changing space competitive and dynamic. You master one (or five) techniques, and then a new one comes along.

Keeping up with those tools and getting the best out of them is the foundation of a new group, Cincinnati Digital Xchange, which meets once a month to explore the ins and outs of the digital marketing space.

The Xchange was founded by a group of local digital marketing experts as an open place where people can learn and swap ideas. It began as a web analytics group but expanded to include other dimensions of digital marketing as well.

"We decided we wanted to bring in more people in the digital industry," says Xchange's co-founder Russ Shirley, a digital marketing consultant. "We'd focus on social, local, mobile—anything trending or coming up."

The group meets the last Tuesday of each month at Cintrifuse, the region's newest corporate-backed startup investment fund and incubator.

The group has had some impressive, on-trend speakers, including inaugural speaker J.B. Kropp, Brandery co-founder and Twitter V.P. of Strategic Partnerships (and Cincinnatian), who spoke about engagement and how brands are leveraging the platform.

Other speakers include marketing pros from Cincinnati powerhouses like dunnhumby, Possible, Empower MediaMarketing, Rockfish Interactive and Procter & Gamble.

The group has grown quickly—some months, meetings attract more than 100 people. The meetings are free, and Xchange receives major support from Cintrifuse, Empower MediaMarketing and CincyTech.

"The main goal is kind of self-serving," Shirley says. "I wanted to get information that I want to learn, find out things that are not usually accessible to anyone who is outside of an agency."

The next meeting is set for July 30. Details are available on the group's Meetup page.

Writer: Feoshia H. Davis

Bluebridge Networks announces $6m tech investment, plans to double staff

BlueBridge Networks isn’t trying to be the biggest cloud-based data storage and recovery company; the Cleveland-based company simply wants to be the best for its customers. To ensure that it is, BlueBridge recently announced a $6 million investment in technology to build the best network and facilities possible.

“We are controlling our own destiny,” explains managing director and partner Kevin Goodman. “We’re building our network to be cheaper, better and faster. Over time, the $6 million will be about time, talent and treasure.”
The three key players at BlueBridge -- Goodman, CFO Phillip Weihe, and director of operations Petar Bojovic -- sat down and made a plan for strategic growth that includes hardware and software improvements, updates to facilities and hiring the right people to make it all happen.
“The three of us strategically put together what we have to do to build it better,” says Goodman. “It’s a terrific time for us. Our focus has always been the next step. We always look at operational excellence, but we’re also always poised for growth.”
Pat Garcia, associate partner of technology at Rosetta, one of BlueBridge’s long-term customers, backs up Goodman’s mission to be the best provider to its customers. “We’ve really had a good experience with their response time,” Garcia says. “They are service oriented and all about customers and getting things done right.”
In addition to its Cleveland headquarters, Bluebridge has data centers in Mayfield Heights, Columbus and, more recently, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Goodman says the centers are all located on the line of the technology telecom track and centrally located. The bulk of the investment will be in the Cleveland headquarters, Goodman says, where the majority of the cloud platform is located. The new and improved platform is called bCloud2.0.
BlueBridge currently has 14 employees and 30 contractors. Goodman says they plan to bring on 15 additional people this year, and already are hiring people from all over the country.

Source: Kevin Goodman
Writer: Karin Connelly

Discover My Cleveland offers visitors an in-depth experience

Lynde Vespoli has a background in the tourism industry. When she started hearing about projects like the Global Center for Health Innovation, the Cleveland Convention Center and the Horseshoe Casino, as well as plans to host the National Senior Games this summer and the Gay Games next, Vespoli decided to put her talents in destination management to work.
Last November Vespoli started Discover My Cleveland, a Destination Management Company. “Think of it as a one-stop shop for events and meeting planners who are coming to Cleveland,” Vespoli says. “With all of the events coming to Cleveland, we needed a company to assist groups full-time.”
Discover My Cleveland provides group tours of Cleveland attractions and landmarks, such as city bus tours and historical walking tours. Vespoli can tell visitors, and locals, all about the Daniel Burnham Group Plan, the 1903 plan that includes the public buildings on The Mall.
For the National Senior Games, Vespoli has organized some unique tours for the 11,000 athletes and 12,000 spectators expected. Group tours include everything from a visit to Amish country to a Beer and Bourbon tour, to a tour of Cleveland’s sacred landmarks.
These tours, which run daily from July 21 to July 28, are open to the general public as well. In fact, Vespoli encourages Clevelanders to join the tours and act as ambassadors. “It’s a neat way for people to do these things, but also mingle with the athletes,” she says.
Vespoli employs eight tour guides on a contract basis. She says she is always looking for additional guides, who have to learn a script and be able to direct a bus driver with their backs to the window.
Vespoli has some other groups lined up for her tours, and only expects business to increase. “”When people start to realize how affordable Cleveland is and how nice we are, they’ll start coming back,” she predicts. “This is a very exciting time for Cleveland and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Source: Lynde Vespoli
Writer: Karin Connelly

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