KJK proudly represents Cleveland’s Host Committee for the 2016 Republican National Convention.

July 8, 2014

KJK Partner Jon Pinney, attends the press conference announcing Cleveland’s selection as the host city for the 2016 Convention.

“By Robert L. Smith, The Plain Dealer
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on July 09, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated July 15, 2014 at 7:14 AM

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As they look to the Republican National Convention arriving in 2016, Cleveland business leaders are envisioning themselves as storytellers.

They see an opportunity to present the new Cleveland to a curious if skeptical audience. A more accurate portrayal of the city and its strengths, they say, could incite new business interest and investment for years to come.

For evidence, some look to a Rust Belt city just down the Turnpike.

“This really adds a new dimension to Cleveland. This is recognition as a world-class city,” said Dan Walsh, the regional president of Huntington Bank and a Cleveland native.

A swelling reputation, Walsh predicts, will attract more visitors, innovators and ultimately jobs to Northeast Ohio.

Across the region Tuesday, business executives and economic development specialists voiced similar optimism. They talked of image and public perception as valuable commodities. And they expressed excitement at the prospect of eyewitnesses arriving to see for themselves the dishonesty of outdated stereotypes.

Many are mindful of what happened to Pittsburgh in 2009, when the former mill town became the surprise choice to host the G-20 Summit, a gathering of the heads of states of the world’s largest economies.

Many in the Steel City thought they had already turned the corner toward a smart economy. After the G-20, the rest of the world began to believe them, as international journalists widely shared a tale of renaissance.

Hosting the RNC in 2016 could be just as elevating for Cleveland, said Joe Roman, the president of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce.

“This is the biggest media event this town could host,” Roman said. “The national and international news outlets are already covering us, talking about a city on the rise.”

Journalists and bloggers with preconceived notions have been quick to resurrect Cleveland punchlines, but well-traveled executives expressed confidence a new truth will emerge.

“Cleveland is the easiest city in the country to impress people with, because they tend to show up with deflated expectations,” said Frank Sullivan, the chairman and chief executive of RPM International. Then are awed by everything from the Cleveland Museum of Art to the beauty of Lake Erie, he said.

“I hope that my experiences with family and business associates becomes the experience with Republicans discovering Cleveland,” Sullivan said. “As the eyes of America are on our fair city, I hope that they truly appreciate what a great city this is, that it’s just a great place to live and work.””

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