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Cleveland using NFL Draft momentum to bring people to the city

The city is spending millions to convince people to move to Northeast Ohio - and people have been coming

CLEVELAND — With all eyes on Cleveland last week, we took the spotlight and ran with it. The NFL Draft is estimated to have brought in $100 million to Cleveland, but it also gave us a chance to showcase our city, both in our ability to hold high-profile national events, and as a destination where people would want to call home. 

An ad from Destination Cleveland was part of millions they, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and Jobs Ohio have been spending during to bring people and businesses not just downtown, but to the Buckeye State as a whole. "Welcome to a city that's never defeated," the commercial says. "When the pressure is on, we rise above it. Together."

Emily Lauer from Destination Cleveland says the three-day event was a huge opportunity to help downtown over the long term. "We have an opportunity to set our businesses up for success over the following months," she said. "Not just over three days."

RELATED: Has the NFL shown Cleveland what's possible on the Lake Erie shoreline?

They're even going to competitors' turf to poach residents, with billboards in Seattle and even New York City. And the marketing seems to be working. Recent numbers show Cleveland ranked fifth for cities attracting the most new residents since the pandemic started, and Akron and Cleveland as having the most fixer upper homes for sale - something millennials are searching for on Instagram. 

Andrea Koenig, who's originally from Medina, moved back to the area at the beginning of March with her partner, Natasha Barnhill. They were living in Portland, but left primarily because of the cost of living.  

"A median house in Portland, which is like a shoe box size, is about $538,000," Koenig said. "So for 1,200 square feet, it's over half a million dollars."

But what drove them to Cleveland was everything the area has to offer.

"The art scene is open. You can go to the museum freely and we have some outdoor concerts coming up, which we're really excited about," Barnhill said. "And lakes here are great. We can't wait to get out on them all summer."

Then there were the jobs. With healthcare being one of the fastest growing industries in our area, Barnhill was able to get a spot in Cancer research, and Koenig could work remotely for the medical company she owns in Portland. 

RELATED: Downtown businesses optimistic Clevelanders can hold their own and help the economy shine after NFL Draft

All points Governor Mike DeWine wants to sell with a proposed $50 million in additional marketing.

"We'll be supporting Ohio's small businesses, strengthening Ohio's communities, growing Ohio's skilled workforce, and telling Ohio's story to the rest of the country," DeWine said.

Just don't call it a comeback. We've been here for years, but after a pandemic, people just needed some reminding and the draft was the perfect handoff.

"It doesn't stop after this weekend," said Deb Janik of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. "Our commitment to our employers and to those seeking employment will continue for the future."