Recently, AKHIA’s Ryan Collins and Mady Etzel attended the first Positively Cleveland Young Professionals Summit, held at the Ariel International Center on East 40th. Here, they share their experiences, their key takeaways and their love of Cleveland.




That’s how many Clevelanders would recommend their city to others.

After being shocked by that stat, the young professionals in attendance were challenged to generate ideas on how we can push that stat higher—as high as possible. Having both moved to Cleveland over the summer, we felt ready—and excited—to collaborate with our fellow young professionals.

What did we learn? Here’s a quick summary:


1. The 34% in Cleveland feel empowered to make positive change. Michael Fleming, from the St Clair Superior Development Corporation, is a great example of this kind of person. After traveling the world and living in other cities, he found himself back in Cleveland years later. He is inspired and interested in seeing this city move forward. The sentiment expressed by so many during the 3½ hours summit was simple: “We can actually enact change in this city. We have the power.”

2. Cleveland’s neighborhoods are inspiring. All of us have our favorites*, but there’s a beating heart at the core of each neighborhood—made up of its residents. They care about where they live, and they actively participate in activities and events as often as they can. Our challenge is how to connect the neighborhoods and ourselves, causing a boom in tourism across the city, sparked by civic pride.

*Ryan is partial to Gordon Square and the Detroit Shoreway. Come on, who can deny those adorable urban cottages, Edgewater Park and Sweet Moses? No one. Mady loves Ohio City, which includes great bars and eateries such as TownHall and Nano Brewery. Plus, Ohio City is home to the West Side Market! Who doesn’t love the combination of local, unique ethnic goods, fresh produce and delicious bakery items?

3. Clevelanders know what’s holding this city back, and we’re prepared to work on it. We’ll compare this to dating. Sometimes it’s necessary to say: It’s not you, it’s us, and we’re working on it. We identified a few challenges Cleveland must face—and in some instances is facing already:

  • Transportation. We’re too dependent on cars and highways.
  • Sprawl. We’re so spread out. Focusing on downtown, the urban core and inner-ring suburbs like Lakewood and Cleveland Heights will spur development where it will make the greatest impact.
  • East side vs West Side. The side you live on is typically the side you stay on. And doing so creates a disconnect between two equally wonderful halves of the city.
  • Knowledge. With so many great neighborhoods, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on where and when. Creating a robust event calendar could help raise awareness of everything the city has to offer.

4. We’re ready to acknowledge the problems and work on a solution. At the end of the Summit, each team presented an idea for how we can improve the problems the city currently faces. Solutions ranged from creating a Cleveland app to monthly neighborhood takeovers. We were asked to vote on our favorite idea, Positively Cleveland’s team is reviewing the summit outcomes at length and putting together next steps to move forward. Pretty awesome!

Bonus: The Ariel International Center has a pretty sick view. Like so many of Cleveland’s great buildings on either side of the city, it’s been restored from its history as a hardworking warehouse into a glorious event space with a view of the lake and city. Check this out:

Ryan's Insta Pic

We walked away from the summit, Terminal Tower lit with a wash of color in the foreground and the waves of Lake Erie a mere few feet away, feeling excited about our city. The momentum we have is extraordinary, from downtown’s transformation into a residential mecca, to Gordon Square’s firm foothold as a center for the arts and LGBT community, to University Circle’s unparalleled collections and beauty, to the new businesses and eateries popping up in Ohio City, Tremont and St. Clair-Superior almost every day.

Thanks for inviting us, Positively Cleveland. We’re excited about your rebranding to the bold Destination Cleveland, and we’re even more thrilled to be here, right now, as we tell the world what makes us oh-so special.

What excites you most about Cleveland? Let us know in the comments!

Mady Etzel is an Assistant Account Executive at AKHIA, and Ryan Collins is a Social Media Specialist at AKHIA.