By Alonzo Mitchell III
I last wrote you 319 days ago. My missive was passionate enough to be a love letter, but direct enough to be a call to action that I hoped would catapult our relationship to the next level. I professed my adoration for you, and my commitment to illuminate and preserve your rich history, and to promote you as an ideal travel destination and a prime location for thriving business. I know that you are a city poised for the growth of wealth and expansion of industry, a town that cherishes its community and culture, and a place that values family and social enrichment–and knows how to have a good time, too.
It is with sincere appreciation for the things you have done for me to date that I write again to discuss something that is troubling my soul. For years, I’ve been hearing how Clevelanders want to make the city a place where young professionals want to live, work, play, and raise a family. We’ve heard over and over that the city needs to create exciting events that can bring money into the economy.
So I’ve banded with other Millennials (we’re calling ourselves the Ohio Homecoming Group) to resurrect a previously successful celebration on Public Square: New Year’s Eve.
For us, New Year’s Eve is bigger than a concert or a fireworks display. We not only want to showcase our beautiful city, but also get the word out about our other initiative, the Village Project. The Village Project seeks to bring together the talents and energies of professionals, entrepreneurs, and artists to help rehab and revitalize Cleveland neighborhoods, so we can build a strong urban core that attracts and retains talent.
We started a year ago, calling everyone we knew—and many we didn’t—in an effort to garner support from local leaders and stakeholders. We’ve had some victories. Drew Carey has signed on to host Cleveland Rocks New Year’s Eve. The event will be broadcast live on 19 Action News. We have secured a handful of great partners.
Yet for every ally who has climbed on board, dozens of Northeast Ohio businesses have said no.
As the owner of a small business myself, I know that budgets are tight, and it’s impossible to say yes to everything. But the tepid response from many influential business people is discouraging—especially when they call other potential sponsors and plant seeds of doubt. As a city, if we do not find ways to say yes, the vision for a bold, thriving, competitive Cleveland is lost.
I find myself in a difficult position. I want to continue to enthusiastically encourage talented young people to stay here, or to return after they get their education. I want to demonstrate and proudly state that they will be supported here, that their talent will be valued. But how do I make them feel like they have a stake in the future of our city, when I often wonder if I do?
I also know that when you truly believe in a cause, walking away is never an option.
Cleveland Rocks New Year’s Eve is going to happen. The city is on board, the layout is finalized. Krewella—fresh from their performance on Good Morning America—is ready to perform, the ice is chilling for the sculptures, and the fireworks are waiting to light up the sky. The only questions now are, just how spectacular will the night be? How much acclaim will it bring our wonderful city? Will there be one ice sculpture, or five? Three minutes of fireworks, or 15?
It will come down to the support we garner and the Clevelanders who continue to step up to donate necessary resources, from marketing trade to volunteer hours to cash.
It’s not too late to be a part of something phenomenal. If you want to support our mission, email me at email@example.com
Alonzo Mitchell III is the head of the Ohio Homecoming Group.