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The Manufacturers' Network - Lisa Ryan EPISODE 2, 11th January 2021
Northeast Ohio - A Great Choice for Manufacturers with Jay Foran
00:00:00 00:20:36

Northeast Ohio - A Great Choice for Manufacturers with Jay Foran

Contact Jay Foran at jforan@teamneo.org 

Show Transcript:

Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to this episode of the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. I'm excited to introduce you to our guest today. Jay Foran. Jay helps businesses discover exciting growth opportunities in the Northeast Ohio region, which is why I chose him because, of course, I'm from northeast Ohio. He works with corporate clients and site consultants to navigate the Regional Economic Development Framework, connecting them with state and local resources and emerging technologies.

Before joining Team NEO, Jay was vice president of business development for the Lake West Group, a management consulting firm. He also served in a variety of key leadership positions with Procter and Gamble. So Jay. First of all, welcome to the show. It's great to have you here.

Jay Foran: Thanks so much; I appreciate the invitation.

Lisa Ryan: Good. So, share with us a little bit about your journey and what ultimately led you to serve the people of northeast Ohio as well as you do.

Jay Foran: Sure. So, as you mentioned in my bio, I had spent a lot of time with Procter and Gamble, 25 years to be exact, and 20 of those years were on the west coast. But I am a native of Cleveland, Ohio area Northeast Ohio and my wife and I were in California for years. So then we started having children and decided we wanted to be closer to family. So we came back to the region.

 In 2000, as you mentioned, I joined a consulting firm but upon re-entry into the region. I connected with two good high school friends and others in key leadership positions in the community. And through that those connections, I found myself getting involved in some of the school rehabilitation programs and the city of Lakewood. They were looking at their school buildings and how they could get those buildings in better shape. More conducive to education, etc., ultimately ended up leading the effort to convince the taxpayers that it's worthy of a $200 million investment. So that was a great experience. 

Along the same timeline, I got involved again locally with the formation of a Community Development Corporation called Lakewood Alive. It's all about engaging citizens in the health and well-being and betterment of their local community. That organization is still thriving here 15 years later.

Well, I was consulting. I was traveling a lot. And basically, it came to a point where I said, "Wait a minute, I moved back to northeast Ohio to be involved." I find myself on an airplane, leaving the region, and I certainly enjoy what I call the Community and Economic Development aspects of the things I was doing on a volunteer basis.

So when the position of Team NEO came open in 2007, I thought it was a great match with my interest and how I wanted to create that Capstone situation for myself in the latter part of my career. And so that's how I found my way to Team NEO. I've been there since again 2007 - now beginning my 15th year.

Lisa Ryan: Wow. Tell us a little bit, for those people outside of our region who may not be familiar with Team Neo, your mission.

Jay Foran: Sure. Well, Team NEOs stands for Team Northeast Ohio, and we are a private nonprofit Regional Economic Development Organization serving the 18 counties of Northeast Ohio - basically going from the Pennsylvania border west to Cedar Point or Erie County and then south to Mansfield and Richland county and then back over to Pennsylvania. So this area makes up about 20 to 25% of the state's geography but about 35 to 40% of the state's economy. So Team Neo's been private and the nonprofit was stood up by the major Chambers of Commerce across the region. Back in the early 2000s, but in 2011 we became the network affiliate of Jobs Ohio. 

Our organization's role is to help companies and the economy grow. So we work with companies in the region to assist them with those impediments that may hold back the growth, or if they've got expansion plans, we can assist that way, tying them into jobs, Ohio, and the state as well as local incentive programs. But we can also provide services in talent development technology adoption, helping them find a site that sort of thing. We don't just restrict ourselves to companies in the region.

We're interested in bringing greater business investment into the region as well. So we work to attract companies, so we travel around the world and tell the Northeast Ohio story. It's a very compelling story of why they want to have an operation here and how that will best serve their business and help their company succeed.

Lisa Ryan: So, and as you're doing that and trying to help companies relocate to Northeast Ohio? What are these companies looking for when they're determining where to relocate their business?

Jay Foran: Well, they all have different requirements. They all have different things, to some degree, that they're looking for, but they can boil down into what I call three areas. One is, "Can I make money?" And that's what companies are supposed to do, right, is to make money. And so what are the things that are assisting them here. Is this a good location for that from a logistics standpoint? Is there access to customers or access to a supply chain - all things that contribute to money?

And then there's risk. Is there a lot of risk with this site versus another site in another state or another part of the country?

And finally - time. How long is it going to take? How much capacity is required of their organization? So again, I think it kind of boils down to money, can I make money. Is there an opportunity there? Or can I save money by operating there, how much time will it take, can I do it faster there or with less capacity?

What's the risk involved - downward or upward risk - that I had to consider as I think about my location. So usually, that's where companies start to weigh these regions of the country against each other and start to score them against their more individual requirements, but they all tend to fall into time, money, or risk.

Lisa Ryan: I also think you've probably seen this a lot more than me when it comes to people being surprised when they come to Cleveland. We see this when other sports fans come in to watch games in Cleveland. They are much more surprised than they originally thought they would be about what a great location, it is. I'm sure that that also plays a part in willing people to come here.

Jay Foran: Right. It's incredibly valuable and is actually a requirement to be successful. We have to find a way to get leaders of organizations to come to the market to be here, to see what's available, and to see how easy it is to drive across the region, from a transportation standpoint. The options that are available, the sites that are available, etc. - I think once we get them on the ground, our success rate grows, you know, threefold, fourfold, and this is just as true when it comes to talent.

Many companies here will tell you, "Our biggest challenge is getting people to think about relocating here. But once we get them to relocate here, we asked him, maybe five years later to relocate somewhere else. They don't want to leave." Yes, they're enjoying that not only are they enjoying a rich career, but their families are also enjoying a great quality of life. So that combination is what we're all looking for a good career, great opportunities, and enrichment, but at the same time, we want our families, the people we love, to be successful, too. And so that's where it all works for Northeast Ohio.

Lisa Ryan: Yeah. And as somebody who is a native Clevelander, I've actually never lived outside Cuyahoga County - completely by choice. I like to joke about the fact that my husband has lived in both Cuyahoga AND Summit Counties.

Jay Foran: So he's a man of the world.

Lisa Ryan: Yeah, my whole family has flown the coop and lives across the country. But, for my husband, Scott and me, it's such a pleasure to see the expansion of people discovering the secret gem that we have here in Cleveland.

Jay Foran: Some of our best, most loyal residents have lived in New York or Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, all these exciting places they're exciting. I love San Francisco. How could you not, right. Right, like I was traveling the west coast in great cities, but at the same time, I thought about what is offered here. It called me home. I think about how much house I can get from my money, how far my dollar goes, how many things my family can enjoy due to being here are just greater than any of the other places that I played.

Lisa Ryan: So what do you think about what you've seen the economic development future looks like for Northeast Ohio?

Jay Foran: I think it's incredibly bright. I'm very encouraged. I am in the latter stages of my career; I won't be doing this for that many more years but in many ways. I wish I could be part of it 10 years from now. Because I've been at it for almost 15 years, when I first went out to talk to companies in Silicon Valley or Japan or other parts of the world. I spoke about Northeast Ohio or Cleveland Akron and there was a little concern because of what they had heard about the area. Well, I have seen over those 15 years that change dramatically.

I'm not saying that the world knows everything they need to know about Northeast Ohio; there's still a huge opportunity there. And that's where a lot of our emphasis going to be is helping people understand the narrative. But I can tell you that the shade is much further up than it needs to be to bring Cleveland Northeast Ohio.

And again, I think there's a lot of things going on on the ground. Whether it's University Circle or what's happening in Akron Canton and Youngstown, there's a lot of activity. Companies are succeeding.

We're just in a great location that's always going to serve as well. And some of the movement towards remote workforce as a result of the pandemic, I think we're going to serve this region. Well, when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, which is usually for most companies' minds.

Lisa Ryan: So when it comes aside the fact of picking up your business and moving to northeast Ohio to increase business or have a more successful business. What are some of the things that you're seeing with the manufacturers you're working with that they're doing really well?

Jay Foran: Well, there are many manufacturers in Northeast Ohio - 7700 to be exact - 97% of them would be what we consider a small or medium-sized enterprise. I see them doing exceptionally well in providing a workplace that allows for additional responsibility and personal growth. Training. Most of these organizations have strong, very solid processes in place. A strong example is just how Northeast Ohio responded to the pandemic's onset back in March of 2020. It was determined that manufacturing was essential. And you saw leadership from these companies that were so impressive and the response of the workforce. The employees were providing our society at a critical time.

I think in many ways, it was somewhat of a renaissance for manufacturing. It really brought to the surface just how critical, how valuable manufacturing is, and just how strong our region is. 

Again, in this region, we're about 20 25% of the geography and about 35 40% of the economy. Well, that's because of in factoring. That's because of the multiplier effect and the supply chains and the fact that we're feeding the region's supply chains and worldwide. I think because of the pandemic, we answered the call and continue to answer the call. That's a strong endorsement for the manufacturing community.

Lisa Ryan: In the pandemic, employees had the opportunity to contribute to that mission. One day they're making beer, the next day, they're making hand sanitizers. One day they're making plastics. The next day, they're making shields. I shouldn't have been surprised, but it was really cool to see the changes that just flipped overnight, and we're able to be that flexible, which we offer here.

Jay Foran: Right. No doubt about it. The company, the employees, the personal investment in the solution was so obvious. There are so many success stories. We could go on and on and on about these companies. 

Lisa Ryan: So if it was to come down to your best tip or hint that you would like to share with other manufacturers, or the best reason for them to come to northeast Ohio, what would that be?

Jay Foran: Okay, well, for manufacturers in particular, I think there's still opportunity, lots of opportunity in the area of what it called technology adoption, you know, Internet of Things. Some of these new applications of advanced AI, artificial intelligence, other technologies, etc. The global marketplace is very competitive, and it's going to be imperative for our companies to begin to bring on these technologies to automate to a greater degree to remain connected. We want to be a leading-edge community. 

The good news is on two fronts: one is that there's strong movement afoot, and the region much of which Team NEO is involved. And if anybody wants to learn more. I'm happy to chat with them. But there's a big movement in the region to begin to take on these technologies to adapt them to incorporate them to integrate them to be successful in them.

And the good news, relative to technology adoption is that you don't have to take on this monstrous project. You can begin small, and as you are successful, you can add on to it, reinvest some of those savings and then continue ratcheting up your organization to be more technically proficient.

Going forward, there's an opportunity. I also think there's a reasonable pathway for companies to employ without disrupting their business or, you know, bringing a lot of risk to their business by incorporating these technologies.

Lisa Ryan: Awesome. Well, Jay. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. What's the best way for people to get ahold of you if they'd like to continue the conversation?

Jay Foran: Best way is through my email, jforan@teamneo.org 

Lisa Ryan: All right. Well, again, Jay. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and insight and really giving props to our wonderful city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. So thank you for being here. I'm Lisa Ryan, and this is the Manufacturers' Network podcast. See you next time.