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Cleveland Considers Expanded Office To Attract Major Films And Events

Jennifer Czerwein from Walton Hills bumped fists with Clevelander and mixed martial arts fighter Stipe Miocic from the floor of the NFL Draft in Cleveland in May. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Jennifer Czerwein from Walton Hills bumped fists with Clevelander and mixed martial arts fighter Stipe Miocic from the floor of the NFL Draft in Cleveland in May.

Cleveland is a step closer to having a new Division of Special Events, Filming and Tourism, with an objective of attracting big events and major film productions to the city.  An emergency ordinance to create the Division passed council’s Municipal Services and Properties committee with a vote of 4 to 1. 

Councilman Brian Kazy dissented, saying the new office was unnecessary.

In Monday’s meeting, Department of Public Works Director Michael Cox called the current special events office a “one man show,” struggling to pull off events like the NFL Draft. If the emergency ordinance passes, Cox said the seven person office would be funded with an annual budget of roughly $800,000.

The new division within the Department of Public Works would significantly improve the permitting process, the city's Manager of Events Esha Hand said, adding that “permitting for a tourism-driven event and major films are at least 60 percent of the planning.”

The Division would allow the city to support partners like the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and Destination Cleveland in drawing major events and productions, according to Hand.

“So, those destination marketing organizations, they can brand Cleveland with the first class marketing efforts. However, if organizers don't have a positive experience with the local government and permitting departments, they don't come back,” Hand said. “So it's the Division of Special Events, Filming and Tourism that will serve as that nucleus to ensure the process is as seamless as possible.”

A major initiative of the new division would be to create and launch a web-based platform, similar to what’s being used in cities including Columbus and Chicago, Hand said, that allows event organizers and film producers to apply for permits online. The new office would also assist local businesses and groups in navigating the permitting process to become vendors, she said.

"Because a lot of times folks may be intimidated that are new to the processes, and we want to help ease that level of comfort,” Hand said.

Councilman Brian Kazy voted against the ordinance, arguing in part, that the current process works well and the money could be better spent elsewhere. He pointed to the success of past major events in Cleveland including the Republican National Convention in 2016 and the NFL Draft last month, thanks to existing partnerships.

“The one thing that everybody says is how it goes off flawlessly,” Kazy said. “And that is our current system. And if we're able through the Destination Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission ... and we're able to do those huge events the way we've done them without a flaw, I don't think that the system is broke. And if it isn't broke, I don't see a need to fix it.”

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”