Vibrant suburb with a bright path ahead
Offering plenty for its residents, Strongsville, Ohio looks to its future
Located on the banks of the East Branch of the Rocky River, the northern Ohio city of Strongsville is a vibrant suburb of Cleveland. It is the second-largest city in Cuyahoga County by land mass. It has about 46,000 residents, and it is indeed growing.
Such is the recent word from Strongsville Economic Development Director Brent Painter. We recently spoke with Painter to ask him more about Strongsville, and he was happy to share what makes this remarkable city such a great place to live, work, and play. Life in Strongsville offers residents (most of them homeowners) a dense, suburban feel. There are many restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.
“We are in a region in northeast Ohio that hasn’t seen a lot of population growth,” he says, “yet the city is strong. Per census data, it has continued to grow from 44,000 to 46,000 residents recently. We’re a great community that has a lot going for it. Almost a third of our community is green space, so we have a large section of the Google MetroParks that runs through our city.”
He adds that Strongsville has a lot of single-family strong housing stocked throughout the city and great schools. On the business side, there is a booming retail area with any restaurant you can think of. A large regional mall, SouthPark Mall, is doing well and re-inventing itself and continuing to draw countless folks.
“I think last year they drew eight million visitors to the area through the mall,” Painter reveals.
“Another key part of our city is we have four thriving business parks that have a global reach now and continue to attract companies from across the world. That’s the financial backbone of our city, and because of that, we have a triple ‘A’ bond rating. That’s the highest bond rating that Moody’s will give out to a governmental entity.”
Strongsville is one of only 15 municipalities in Ohio with such a bond rating. Painter adds that only 200 cities across the country share that rating, too. Named for early settler John Stoughton Strong, who arrived from the East more than 200 years ago, Strongsville is strong in more ways than one: financially stable and very well run.
“We have great safety forces,” says Painter. “We have amazing civic groups too. We have one of the largest chambers in northeast Ohio. We have 600-plus members. We have one of the largest Rotary Clubs in Northeast Ohio. We have a great City Club. All of these special entities help us do special things for our residents and our businesses in the community.”
Talking of which, what types of new businesses does Strongsville hope to attract? How does it retain existing businesses?
“We have a focus on companies that provide good, strong employment opportunities for residents not only of Strongsville but also of the region,” says Painter. “We have 20,000-plus people that commute to Strongsville every day for jobs, and our business parks around the area. We love companies that manufacture things.”
The city is known for its strong manufacturing base, including distribution and logistics, but Painter acknowledges a post-COVID shift.
Still, since Mayor Thomas Perciak was elected not 20 years ago, the city has enjoyed some $145 million in infrastructural improvements, as Painter informs, citing everything from streets to stormwater. Grant monies, over $50 million, have also been a helpful part of these efforts, as have the no-interest loans.
Business remains what Strongsville is all about. Big opportunities abound, as Painter points out. Business expansion and retention are always the top goals.
“The new companies coming in are a great supplement and add a lot for our residents,” he opines, “but the majority of those opportunities and revenues are always going to come from your existing base. We go out of our way to make sure we are working with our local companies.”
Taking a responsive, active approach, working in partnership with the local chamber of commerce, is key, says Painter.
Then there’s workforce development. The Polaris Career Center is the local vocational school that does all kinds of different training programs for in-demand jobs. Painter serves on its adult workforce advisory board to help connect curriculum matches with employers’ needs.
Plus, Cuyahoga Community College is another valuable partner, as are Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve, and Walsh universities.
“We’re about to break ground on a brand-new Strongsville Town Center Initiative,” Painter reveals, citing a massive project scheduled to come to fruition next year. “We’re increasing the walkability and creating new amenities at the center of our town that will benefit our residents but also the employees that can go and utilize the space.”
From new walking paths to a community pavilion, a new splash pad, pickleball courts, and handicapped-accessible playgrounds to a whole new area for food trucks, festivals, and band concerts, this exciting new place will feature a lot.
This is just another example, says Painter, of how Strongsville is a “welcoming, safe community that does a lot for our residents and that’s very secure financially. It’s a city that will be able to draw employees in who’ll feel safe coming to work here and want to shop after work because of the amenities and restaurants. That’s a really big part of our business attraction and retention: to make sure that we’re an appealing place where potential workers want to travel to and go to work each day.”
Preserving the past
Strongsville has an active historical society. Painter cited the historical village that offers a glimpse of old Strongsville right in its modern downtown area. Preserving this proud past is important to this community, as is improving local walking trails to make for a more walkable city.
“Right now,” he says, “it’s not as walkable as we want it to be, so we’re going to clean
that up and make it more walkable so you can go from the public library to the historical village to our recreation center to our city commons without getting into a car. The other thing we are doing is we are creating a better brand in the area with better way-finding signage.”
Painter extols Metro Park as an amazing asset and so important to Strongsville. It features a toboggan chute, one of the few in the state of Ohio, and there are pavilions the public may rent. There’s also a zipline course.
Plus, being in such proximity to the big city of Cleveland is a thing of inestimable economic importance. Countless commuters want to work there but reside in Strongsville or other such smaller bedroom communities.
“One of the advantages of the city of Strongsville is we have Interstate-71 that runs through our city and the Ohio Turnpike,” as Painter points out, “so they intersect in the city of Strongsville. It’s very easy to go north, south, east or west. We’re two cities over from the airport. It’s maybe three or four exits off the highway. It’s about an eight-to-10-minute drive to the airport from the northern side of our city. It’s usually about 15 to 20 minutes to downtown. We are strategically located.”
Like many other cities, Strongsville has seen a big increase in hybrid employment. Employees can work three or four days from home in Strongsville or have a quick commute downtown.
“All of our residential areas are serviced by high-speed Internet,” says Painter. “We went through a great public-private partnership to get high-speed fiber-optic lines installed in all of our business parks. That’s several years old now. We worked with different providers to get high-speed Internet on the ground so that our companies here can have a choice between different providers within the city. That technological side of it is extremely important to us because it’s something that’s going to become more and more relevant as we move forward.”
He also spoke further about infrastructure.
“We have a very active policy on infrastructure and infrastructure improvement,” he informs. “We have a fully-staffed internal engineering department. That’s not something that we do out in Strongsville. We have full-time engineers on staff.”
What’s the overall secret to Strongsville’s success? It’s a tripartite recipe, as Painter points out.
“The three pillars of our community are safety, economic development, because of the financial stability and jobs it creates, and infrastructure,” he concludes, “that supports all of that.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: a city of some 46,000 residents in Cuyahoga County
Where: Half an hour out of Cleveland