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A Turning Point: Three of Cleveland's most prominent black business leaders join forces to donate computers for students

Bill Lacey, Craig Arnold and Fred Nance talk with Russ Mitchell about the need for the business community to provide resources for those who lack them

CLEVELAND — Many Cuyahoga County students are being expected to learn from home this fall. It’s a difficult task for those who don’t have reliable in-home internet or computers to use.

That’s where a group of local business leaders comes in.

They’re three men who are teaming up and using their influence to help close the digital divide -- Bill Lacey, chief executive officer of GE Lighting A Savant Company; Craig Arnold, chief executive officer of the Eaton Corporation; and Fred Nance, global managing partner at Squire Patton Boggs law firm.

And as they told 3News anchor Russ Mitchell during an interview via teleconference, they are bonding together to provide much-needed computers to students during the pandemic.

The three men have entered into a partnership with the PCs for People organization and are donating dozens of their companies’ used computers, to be refurbished for Cuyahoga County schoolchildren. And they are working to spread the word to other business leaders, so that other local corporations can follow suit.

To these three, their efforts are an important first step in addressing Cleveland’s racial divide.

Said Craig Arnold, “Given what's happened today in terms of remote learning, remote work, given what's happened more broadly in society, around systemic racism this was absolutely an important issue to weigh in on in the business community and try and make a difference."

“In Cuyahoga County, there is a divide for those who have access to the internet and the devices to do it,” added Fred Nance. “And when our Cleveland school children started to learn remotely this past spring and the beginning of the fall, as many as 50 percent do not have that access."

For Bill Lacey, he was moved to do something after the nation had a reawakening about the wrongs of social injustice. George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police was a turning point for him, he said.

“I went to my conference room, I looked at the video, and I had to close the door...and it hit me," Lacey said. "As I heard from the white community, talking about white privilege, talking about systematic racism....and the need for folks to get off the sidelines, I moved from a place of frustration and anger to a place of hope and out of that hope I called Craig and said what are we gonna do...and then to a freight train from there, digital divide as the topic that we wanted to change."

And they will continue to find ways to mobilize the local business community, the men promised.

"The three of us think that this is a really important initiative,” Arnold said. “Putting time effort and accountability, quite frankly on the line, we committed to solve this device problem in the near term working for PC's for People, and we're going to be accountable for getting it done."



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