Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New port CEO charts pragmatic future for lakefront

“This isn’t the first port to have a vision and have to back away from that vision,” says William Friedman, new CEO of the Port of Cleveland. “We’re in recovery mode,” he says, “and I think our future can still be bright.”

Friedman, who took over the port authority in June, is cleaning up a mess. Now that the half-billion-dollar plan to relocate the port to East 55th Street is dead, the new boss is helping the agency recover with a dose of pragmatic optimism. Friedman wants to revive the plan for a ferry to Canada, make the port a staging area for erecting offshore wind turbines, and seek small opportunities in container shipping. He spells out his vision in my story "Port Order," in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Inside Business.

The ebb and flow of city and county politics often toss the port to and fro -- the Cleveland's mayor appoints six members of the port authority board, and the county government appoints three. The port's previous regime helped undo former mayor Jane Campbell's lakefront plan. Frank Jackson adopted the wildly optimistic relocation plan, with its dream of luring ocean freighters into the Great Lakes, as part of his economic strategy.

Now, the recovering port is trying to figure out its place in the city's plans. Friedman is moving ahead cautiously with plans to develop a new lakefront neighborhood north of Cleveland Browns Stadium. He talks seriously about the port's secondary role as an economic development authority, financing development deals far from the lakefront.

“We need to bring more cargo into this port, which we’re working hard to do," Friedman says. "We need to continue to finance good projects, such as the Flats East Bank. I think if we can start Phase One of the waterfront development, I think the voters will say, ‘Yes, that’s the right thing for the port to do.’ ”

To read my story, click here.

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