Issue: January/February 2011
Power 100: Ed FitzGerald
The Top 25
Executive, Cuyahoga County
The Power 100 List
Greater Akron, Cuyahoga County, Lake County, Lorain County, Mahoning Valley
#1 Sandy Cutler,
Chairman and CEO,
#3 Christopher Connor,
Chairman and CEO,
The Sherwin-Williams Co.
Tale of Two Cities
#4 Dan Gilbert,
Majority owner, Cleveland Cavaliers; chairman, Quicken Loans Inc.; principal, Rock Gaming
#6 Anthony Alexander,
President and CEO, FirstEnergy Corp.
In Good Health
#8 Thomas Zenty,
CEO, University Hospitals
#13 Beth Mooney,
President, COO, and incoming chairman and CEO, KeyCorp
County Executive Ed FitzGerald talks economic development
Women on Power
Five women on our list provide their views
Good Years, Bad Years
Tracking ups and downs
How Novembers winds blew in change
2010 honorees who didn't
make the list
Many people call Ed FitzGerald’s new job the most powerful political position in Northeast Ohio. That gives FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County’s first executive, an especially interesting vantage point for observing what power is: How much of it comes with a job, how much does a leader acquire by stepping out and leading, how much of it is unilateral, and how much depends on cooperation and persuasion?
Inside Business: How powerful do you think the county executive job is, as written in the charter?
I think it’s powerful the way it’s written because it takes all the powers of county government and it consolidates them. All your taxing authority, your economic development programs, your human services programs — all those basic functions of government will be consolidated under the county executive. It’s the things that aren’t written into the charter that I think will determine how powerful the county executive really is. I went down to Columbus [after the election], and I was able to get right into the governor’s office and have an extended conversation with him. I could meet with Bill Batchelder, who’s going to be the new speaker of the house, and Tom Niehaus, who’s going to be the new Senate president, and deal with them as colleagues and as peers. I have already started taking that as part of my mission: to try to play a role in the way state policy is going to affect Cuyahoga County.
IB: What sort of influence do you think you’ll have in the community as you start the job?
The charter has created a position where Cuyahoga County can speak with one voice. To the extent that I can grow into that role, also to the extent that I can build coalitions, it gives me entree into all kinds of situations I may not have direct control over.
IB: Can you give an example?
I’m the first person that, in one day, was able to talk to the folks at the city of Brooklyn and the CEO of American Greetings. I’m going to start trying to convene all the local higher education institutions around the same table and figure out what kind of economies of scale or shared strategies we can devise. I’m going to try to convene all of the CEOs of local health systems and try to talk about that as well.
IB: What kinds of businesses will benefit from your Fourth Frontier program?
Advanced manufacturing, biomedical and biotech. Those are probably the most likely. Small- to medium-sized companies. Not complete startups that don’t have their own capital. An existing local business that has a practical business plan and local capital we can supplement. That’s important, because if you don’t have that, then the county is being the entrepreneur. And it isn’t the county’s job to be the entrepreneur.
IB: What are your goals for the Medical Mart and convention center project? What are your biggest concerns?
One of the jobs of the county executive is going to be to promote Cuyahoga County as a business destination. The Medical Mart is going to be one of our major selling points if it’s a success. So I’m going to take an active role trying to promote it to the medical industry across the country. I also want to make sure that construction process itself is open and transparent and that it comes in on time and on budget.
IB: What can the county do to maximize the Medical Mart’s benefits for the local economy?
Make sure it is integrated with local providers. Make sure local people are hired. We want to make sure it’s integrated with local medical institutions as much as possible. When the Medical Mart is used to showcase a medical innovation, we want to try to figure out, “OK, how do we commercialize that idea into our local economy?”
IB: What’s the regional part of your economic strategy?
Once we create this Fourth Frontier, if a city wants to participate in it, we want to try to create an incentive for them to collaborate. You don’t want to punish a business because the mayor of their town doesn’t want to collaborate on anything, but it makes sense for us to try to come up with some financial incentives. Some counties have a noncompete agreement among themselves. It doesn’t make sense for us to be giving tax breaks and tax incentives to take a company to go from one side of the [county] line to another. I would like to broker that kind of an agreement.
This record has been viewed 3318