CLEVELAND — Mayor Justin Bibb talked about the importance of sharing Cleveland's story with the world during an interview with 3News' Matt Rascon, where he defended his recent trip to Ireland and talked about his plans for economic development.
Cleveland, a city that played a key role during the industrial revolution, sits on one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, and is home to expert healthcare and the second largest theater district in the United States.
Bibb says these facts are all part of the city's story and the message he shared during a recent trip to Ireland as part of the first direct flight from Cleveland to Dublin via Aer Lingus.
“I'm never going to apologize as mayor for getting on an airplane and selling our city, not just across the country, but to the world,” Bibb told Rascon.
“We are the second-poorest big city in America. We can't grow and have an opportunity agenda if we're not in boardrooms or we're not talking to company CEOs and pitching the great assets that we have in our city and all across the region," he added.
Bibb sees trips like the one he and other city and county leaders took on Aer Lingus as critical to overcoming what he says is Cleveland’s biggest economic hurdle.
“We gotta go on the offensive and change the narrative of Cleveland being a destination city,” Bibb said.
It’s a difficult task. Not only does Cleveland rank as the second poorest big city in America, but violent crime is on the rise.
“We can't be a thriving city if we aren't safe,” Bibb stated.
Last week, the mayor updated the public on where the city stands on crime and the efforts to keep residents and especially young people safe over the summer months.
Bibb believes that the city coming out of the pandemic has created an economic opportunity.
“The American Rescue Plan investments have been a godsend to Cleveland,” he said.
In recent months and years we’ve seen companies like Google and Intel choose to expand in Columbus.
Cleveland city leaders say underdeveloped land has been a part of the problem.
“We have so many challenges from an infrastructure perspective,” Bibb said. “When we get companies calling right now, they want 20 acres, 30 acres, 40 acres, and they want it now."
The mayor said a recent study over the last year found Cleveland had around 1,000 acres of vacant land that is not shovel-ready. Council recently approved moving $50 million of American Recue Plan Act (ARPA) money into a site-readiness fund that would be used to develop that land.
Bibb said you can talk about data to measure the success of their work, but he said for him that success is creating a city where families can choose to live anywhere in Cleveland and be proud of it.
“It's so important that we have a new mindset that it's okay to leave town and talk about how great we are as a city,” he said. “That's the only way you grow and expand, you got to tell our story.”