CLEVELAND TOMORROW, a private civic organization made up of chief executive officers of the largest companies in the Cleveland-area, was created in 1981 to improve the long-term economic health of Cleveland. Founded by several important business and industrial leaders, including Ruben F. Mettler, chairman of TRW, INC.; E. Mandall de Windt, chairman of the EATON CORP.; Morton Mandel, chairman and CEO of PREMIER INDUSTRIAL CORP., and Thomas Vail, publisher and editor of the PLAIN DEALER, Cleveland Tomorrow has since become the most important private sector organization for the economic revitalization of the city and the major force for initiating public-private development projects over the past two decades.
The organization's focus included attracting new businesses and strengthening existing ones, improving management-labor relations, encouraging innovation in industry by encouraging research and development and supporting higher education, as well as, encouraging the revitalization of Cleveland neighborhoods. When long-time Cleveland Tomorrow executive director Richard Shatten stepped down in 1993, Cleveland Tomorrow had been credited with most major public-private sectors efforts in the Cleveland area, including: the $400 million Gateway (stadium and arena) project, the largest downtown movie theater renovation (4 theaters) in the country, support of the $400 million Tower City project (see TOWER CITY CENTER) under Terminal Tower, the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME, as well as, some major neighborhood housing projects. By the 1990s, Cleveland Tomorrow adopted a renewed regional approach in their revised long-term plans, which focused on creating a regional tourist destination out of the Cleveland area, bettering the area's manufacturing base, and improving Cleveland's neighborhoods and public schools.
Cleveland Tomorrow's other initiatives included the creation, in 1997, of the Ohio Innovation Fund to help encourage growth in Cleveland's high technology industry. Capitalized with $11 million, the Innovation Fund was designed to provide seed money to young firms in healthcare, software, aerospace, or other technology-based industries. Some of Cleveland Tomorrow's proposals, however, have not been without controversy. In 1998, Cleveland Tomorrow revealed its redevelopment plan for Cleveland called "Civic Vision 2000 and Beyond," which called for a reorientation of downtown toward the waterfront by constructing a new 500,000 square foot convention center and expanding commercial and residential space along the waterfront. Included in the plan was the construction of a new Crawford Museum of Transportation and Industry (see CRAWFORD AUTO-AVIATION MUSEUM) at the center of a entertainment and lifestyle complex at North Coast Harbor. Critics, however, soon raised some important questions about the transparency of the planning process and the cost of the project. Steven Litt, an architectural critic for the Plain Dealer , praised the comprehensiveness of the plan, but characterized the "Civic Vision" as "a top-down document" that is an "[un]wise way to do civic business." Public enthusiasm for "Civic Vision" soon waned, but plans for a new convention center returned in 2003. Partnering with the GREATER CLEVELAND GROWTH ASSOCIATION and the CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU OF GREATER CLEVELAND , Cleveland Tomorrow recommended a location behind Tower City on the Cuyahoga River as the site of a new $400 million convention center and hoped the voters would approve the necessary public funds in the November election. As before, however, the public played a minimal role in the planning process and Mayor Jane Campbell- citing vocal criticism from an already cash-strapped electorate- soon withdrew her support for the plan, leaving Cleveland Tomorrow and its partners to come up with a plan that would minimize the tax-burden on residents while responding to calls for greater openness.
By 2003, Cleveland Tomorrow maintained its offices at 1801 E. 9th in the Ohio Savings Plaza and received more than $1 million from its 56 members and nearly $2.5 million from investments and other programs. Joseph D. Roman has served as the executive director since 1993.
In March 2004, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, Cleveland Tomorrow, and the GREATER CLEVELAND ROUNDTABLE merged to form the Greater Cleveland Partnership. The merger encompassed the affiliates of these bodies such as COSE, the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition, and the Commission on Economic Inclusion.