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BW study identifies challenges and potential in regional hospitality industry

The research project, commissioned by Cuyahoga County, was completed by a team of faculty and students through the BW Community Research Institute.

Cleveland's East 4th Street dining and entertainment district; Courtesy Destination Cleveland

A Baldwin Wallace University student- and faculty-powered research project is fueling changes in the way Northeast Ohio sees and supports the future of the hospitality business sector.

Cuyahoga County commissioned the study through the BW Community Research Institute (CRI).

The resulting report, ”The Economic Impact of the Leisure & Hospitality Sector in Cuyahoga County,”  outlines both the struggles and the importance of the hospitality industry with findings that include:

  • Leisure & Hospitality comprises 10-15% of the local economy, one of the region’s largest sectors.

  • Leisure & Hospitality supports more than 90,000 local jobs.

  • Leisure & Hospitality contributes more than $11 billion to the local economy.

“This can be an engine for redevelopment,” Dr. Thomas Sutton, professor of political science and director of BW CRI, told Plain Dealer in their report on the study. “It’s about creating thriving neighborhoods” with restaurants and nightlife options that help create distinctive identities.

Student-Faculty Collaboration

Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club; Courtesy Destination Cleveland

Sutton co-authored the study with Dr. Christian Nsiah, professor of economics and finance, with the support of student fellows in the Ratcliffe Growth Practice program. The students conducted surveys and 52 interviews with industry employers and workers. Another student, Ayah Jadallah, analyzed survey data for an independent study to fulfill an applied research requirement for the social data analytics minor.

The results are informing the work of the County, the nonprofit Fund for Our Economic Future, Destination Cleveland and other organizations that are addressing industry challenges, most notably the acquisition and retention of workers.

“The beauty of the BW CRI is that it serves a need in the community for sound data to drive smart decision-making and offers our students real-world experience in generating that vital research,” Sutton said.

Broad BW Contributions

The BW Ratcliffe Growth Practice student interns who helped produce the report are Daisjah Brown, Cole Bryan, Margaret Houska, Robby Palmieri, Matt Perry, Lauren Slife and Jillian Smith.

The project also drew on BW expertise across disciplines, with three faculty members providing translations of the survey into Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic: Spanish professor Dr. Karen Barahona, economics and finance professor Dr. Tony Xudong Chen and political science professor Dr. Matthew Ward. Sociology professor Cait Kennedy contacted several establishments to circulate the survey.

Keeping Cleveland Cool

Cool Cleveland’s Thomas Mulready also explored the findings of the study in a wide-ranging interview with Sutton, addressing such issues as whether the Leisure & Hospitality sector has fully recovered from the recent pandemic and how much public investment is justified.

Watch the full Cool Cleveland conversation here:


View the entire BW CRI report at The Economic Impact of the Leisure & Hospitality Sector in Cuyahoga County

Related: Explore BW’s Hospitality and Tourism Management undergraduate business program.

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