FitzGerald talks possible second Great Lakes Exposition and other changes


Photo by Grant Engle.

Grant Engle

When Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald took the stage Tuesday afternoon for the State of the County address, some people may have expected it to be politics as usual.

While some politicians use their “state of” address solely to tout their accomplishments, put pressure on the opposing party and crack a few jokes, FitzGerald made a few announcements that garnered cheers and applause from the near-capacity crowd in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel ballroom.

FitzGerald talked about the possibility of a second Great Lakes Exposition-type event in Cleveland in 2016, which would be the 80-year anniversary of the original expo.

The first Great Lakes Exposition took place on the Lake Erie waterfront in Cleveland in the summers of 1936 and 1937 (but it is still referred to as one event by Cleveland historians). The expo featured local energy and manufacturing companies who presented their work to nearly 7 million visitors in an effort to attract more entrepreneurs to Cleveland.

The 1936-37 expo was also intended to “provide an entertaining diversion in the midst of the Great Depression” — according to the Cleveland State University History Department.

FitzGerald said the proposed event in 2016 didn’t have to be a carbon copy of the expo in the late 1930s, but the city could use a “community signature event.”

“Another Great Lakes Exposition in 2016 could be the perfect opportunity to honor our past and celebrate our present, and let America know that our boundless optimism is restored, and we are ready to compete against the world again,” FitzGerald said.

Cuyahoga’s first-ever county executive also announced that a nearly half-billion-dollar medical complex set to open later this year has been renamed.

The 235,000-square-foot building originally known as the “Medical Mart” will now be called the Global Center for Health Innovation. The four-story building was designed to house medical technology companies, classrooms for continuing medical education and areas used to test vendors’ medical products.

FitzGerald also announced that more than 50 percent of the building has been leased, and the county may have to start rejecting companies wanting to pay for space – a problem he didn’t anticipate.

The newest tenant of the center is the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society – a not-for-profit company that focuses on the use of information technology in healthcare. The company will occupy the entire fourth floor of the building by 2016.

FitzGerald also referenced the corruption scandal that rocked the Cuyahoga County government in 2012. A long investigation ended with 40 people – several of whom are former government officials – being convicted and sent to prison. Most notably, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora was sentenced to 28 years in prison for racketeering and 32 other corruption-related charges.

FitzGerald praised Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Ohio, for his “zealous pursuit of corruption and support for integrity.”

“We dismantled the political patronage machine which was choking county government, the who-you-know not what-you know system,” FitzGerald said. “We’ll never let something like that ever again grab the reins of our local democracy.”

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].