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Joe Roman Set To Retire From Greater Cleveland Partnership Next Year

Joe Roman has been president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) since it was created in 2004 – and will remain in that role until April 2021.

He made the decision to retire two years ago and plans to stay on as a consultant. GCP announced his coming retirement Wednesday morning. The board of directors has launched a nationwide search for a replacement.

“The organization is in great shape, it's got a new strategic plan, which it's implementing, which incorporates the importance of equity and inclusion across everything we're doing,” Roman said.

Under his leadership, GCP has worked for the expansion of public-private partnerships, where public funds are used to support private projects identified as serving the public good.

Roman advocated for public investment in the three downtown sports stadiums, developments at North Coast Harbor, in Gordon Square and Downtown Cleveland.

“During Roman’s career, he worked with over 400 Fortune 1000 CEO’s and also served during the tenures of the three longest serving Mayors in Cleveland’s history,” GCP said in a Wednesday statement.

According to Roman, the decision was made well before the coronavirus, recession and current movement against police brutality.

He also acknowledged criticism that the regional chamber of commerce with more than 12,000 members hasn’t done enough to combat income inequality in Northeast Ohio.

“I'm not sure anybody isn't under criticism for not doing enough because we all have to do more,” Roman said. “It's clear and I think the window is available for us to do that and if anything the events of the last months have been galvanizing.”

Roman pointed to the GCP’s work diversifying businesses in the region and support for a local and statewide declaration of racism as a public health threat as positive steps the organization has taken.

Zach Schiller of the progressive research institute Policy Matters Ohio sees new leadership in 2021 as an opportunity for change at GCP.

“I think that there needs to be kind of a break with the downtown-oriented development as the top priority and supporting tax breaks for businesses,” said Schiller.

GCP last year announced it also would scrutinize more closely future attempts to increase taxes in Cuyahoga County, with Roman saying at the time that Cleveland has a “much higher” local tax burden that its peer cities in the Midwest.

But according to Schiller, GCP’s new focus on the local tax rate is misguided.

“We've cut our state taxes by $6 billion a year,” Schiller said. “Meaning there is not the support of local governments, which has helped then force local governments to raise taxes to make up for the reduced support that they get from the state.”

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