Quality of Life vs. Cost of Living

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I had the pleasure of attending TechniCLE Speaking yesterday at Jones Day. The entire team who has put this event on for the last 4 years does a wonderful job of getting the right people in the room and then sparking conversation. If you haven't been to one in the past, I suggest you attend next years. For anyone that hasn't attended the event, jointly put on by the Cleveland City Council and Jones Day, TechniCLE Speaking is a civic advocacy event conceived in response to recurring concerns about the long-term growth and sustainability of Cleveland’s technology and startup sectors, and their impact on the region’s future economic development.
West Side Market, Cleveland
Most people at the event are pretty dialed in and have seen steady momentum and growth among the startup and tech communities, but don't feel that the environment is ready for a critical mass. The reasons, most recently articulated by TechStars, are not uncommon - lack of talent density, sharing among the community, history of major exits, etc. Everyone believes that the for the most part, all of these pieces exist, they just have yet to come together as a singular force.

I think the psychology of these issues are interesting and was crystallized to me in one conversation where we were discussing why Cleveland is a great market to start a company. One party said "Cost of Living" and the other said "Quality of Life". These statements aren't opposed to one another, but when you dig a little it exposes the core of our issue....confidence. One person felt we were attractive because we were a cheap place to live, while the other thought this was a great place to live a full life. Anyone who lives here and has lived in another major market knows that the benefits of Cleveland's arts, culture, accessibility, housing cost, traffic, parking, downtown, sports teams, philanthropy etc, etc, etc, are disproportionate to the size of the city. We certainly have our issues, but ultimately we really are blessed.

We need to wear this a bit more proudly, a bit more confidently.

So in the spirit of yesterday's meeting and the goal of having small but tangible outcomes, I have a suggestion. The next time someone asks you why Cleveland is a good place to start a company, say that the amazing Quality of Life is hard to beat, don't focus on our cost, it doesn't do us justice. We aren't cheap, we are just under priced for the time being.
Jeff Culliton
Sr. Director, Digital Strategy - Adcom Group
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