Thursday, September 4, 2008

Medical Mart, Schmedical Mart?

Driving forces behind the proposed Cleveland Medical Mart addressed fans and foes at an informational meeting in Cleveland Heights last Tuesday. I did not attend the meeting, so I don't know exactly how many attendees were for the project and how many were against. The Plain Dealer published an article that stated the concerns of several people who oppose the Medical Mart idea (
The Sun Newspaper also has an article today quoting objectors.

One person said the question wasn't where the mart should be built, but whether it actually needed to be built at all. The same person stated that medical conventions are no longer necessary because of modern technology.

Others were concerned about the lack of taxation without representation, and expressed a desire to have a referendum on the mart put on the ballot.

The latter idea fits in with the democratic society in which we live, especially since taxpayers have already begun to foot the bill for the Medical Mart

The other concerns expressed at the Cleveland Heights meeting leave me trembling. Here we stand in a city that even many residents believe is dying, yet there is opposition to a plan that would generate revenue, jobs and credibility.

Cleveland is a world leader in biotechnology, and home to some of the most amazing hospitals and researchers on the planet. A Medical Mart would complete the package. Just as the Merchandise Mart draws people from around the country and around the globe to Chicago, the Medical Mart could do the same for Cleveland. 

Although modern technology is amazing, there still exists a need for people to meet face to face and to see products in person. And as these people gather at a mart, they need places to stay, eat and shop. Thus the greater impact to the community.

Understandably, some people may have a fear that the Medical Mart could fail. But opposing its construction creates two other fears that are perhaps even more dangerous: 

* The fear of trying something new
* The fear of doing anything at all

I grew up in a town that had those fears, and the results were devastating. When the steel mills closed in Youngstown, many people waited anxiously for them to return. Years were unfortunately wasted hoping for the city's once-great industrial power to return. New ideas for business never really materialized, although small strides were made along the way. Today, Youngstown is making a go of it with a business incubator and other efforts, but so much time has elapsed that older folks who remember the "good old days" of the steel mills sometimes feel Youngstown's time has come and gone.

Cleveland has a lot going for it, but it needs a lot more. The city needs a major attraction that can generate jobs, draw in visitors and stimulate the local economy. Fred Nance of the Greater Cleveland Partnership believes that a convention center for the "fastest growing industry in the country" would be a boon to the region.

Fear of the unknown is understandable. But if we don't do something new, if we don't do anything at all, we have a bigger dilemma to address: How can Cleveland grow its economy and go from being a fast-decaying city to the renaissance city it was just 10-15 years ago?

Personally, my biggest fear is that if the Medical Mart is rejected, many people may see only one other way to bring jobs and business to Cleveland: casinos. And that has me trembling all over again.

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