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Money: Johnny Manziel and LeBron James Give Cleveland Big Economic Boost

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Four agonizingly long years after The Decision, Cleveland sports have been revitalized by the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Johnny Manziel.

With the hometown boy coming back to where it all began, James seems to have righted all his past wrongs, perhaps most notably taking his talents to South Beach in the way in which he did. Even though he fell lower in the 2014 NFL Draft than many expected, Manziel’s dazzlingly exciting manner, both on and off the field, should spark a fire in a recently bland Cleveland team.

While both the Cavaliers and the Browns seem to be on the rise, with the former looking to challenge for an NBA title and the latter hoping to rise above the mediocrity that has so cruelly befallen them since the mid 1980’s, many economists and political pundits have wondered about what effect this sporting renaissance will have on the local economy.

Just like practically every other town and city in the United States, Cleveland was blindsided by the blunt force of 2007’s Great Recession, and, similarly to many other Midwestern Rust Belt cities, has been slow at best and lethargic at worst in its recovery.

As larger metropolitan areas such as Seattle, Washington DC, New York, and the Bay Area continue to pull themselves back to economic normalcy, Cleveland has faced plenty of difficulty in regaining lost ground.

As of recent projections by local economic analysts, the city still has to recover roughly 140,000 jobs to be on par with its pre-recession levels and as of May, Cleveland’s job growth rate was nearly a full 1% slower than the national average, a gap that many predict could very well widen quickly.

The lone bright spot for Cleveland employment wise seems to be that jobs in education have increased by 11%, and the decline in construction jobs was 3% less steep than the national average.

Enter the King and Johnny Football.

While they are not going to be responsible for the injection of those 100,000+ jobs that so desperately need to be injected into the local economy, what they can do is inspire people to start spending again. In the years since Cleveland basketball has effectively gone down the gutter, Cleveland’s leisure economy, meaning hotels, bars, restaurants, and similar establishments, lost an about $196 million.

With more and more people going out to watch games at the Quicken Loans Arena or the FirstEnergy Stadium, people will be out and about more often and the city will attract more visitors, leading to a turnaround on the recent losses posted by those in leisure.

Assuming that Cavaliers’ ticket prices go up to levels similar to what the Miami Heat charged recently, which in all likelihood will happen considering the team’s newly projected prowess, even more money will be generated.

While the Browns are not necessarily projected to do as well as their basketball counterparts, a fiercely loyal fan base should help local revenue out. If, by some miracle, the Browns were to escape the AFC North alive and reach the playoffs, the resulting economic boon would be amplified not only due to the feel good story of the Browns becoming relevant, but also by the NFL playoffs are a massive spectacle for all to behold.

Even though Clevelanders are right to buy into the hype generated by these two athletes, it’s helpful at this time to remember that the Cleveland metropolitan area had an approximate gross product of $113 billion last year, so whatever impact is made won’t be a game changer by any standards.

In short, it seems likely that the tangible aspects of this athletic rejuvenation on the economy will be nowhere near the $500 million boost that some had predicted.

Never mind that another prediction of $48 million per year seems more possible, and would still be a nice starting point in economic recovery.  However, more optimistically, the motivation from having a common rallying point for a downtrodden city should do wonders for Cleveland’s rebounding economy.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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