Where Manufacturing Matters

Happy Birthday WIRE-Net: Celebrating Three Decades of Impact

Posted by Kristen Haning on Aug 16, 2018 10:39:50 AM

In 1988, when WIRE-Net set up shop to serve as an advocate for manufacturers, business was booming. Cleveland's industrial landscape was dotted with plants and factories that, while diverse in nature, all shared the same issues and concerns: Security, job training, technical assistance, infrastructure improvement, and maneuvering through bureaucratic mazes.

Since its beginning, WIRE-Net has been providing assistance to local manufacturing companies, providing education programs, support in financing through banks or the City, and helping them to make lasting connections that continue to strengthen local business and our economy. While the organization's membership and reach is a bit different today, the work we started back then still continues to provide direction to companies allowing them opportunities to grow. The economic impact achieved through WIRE-Net's work over its 30-year history has been felt far beyond the Cleveland area. Our work resonates loudly throughout regional and state economies.

All year long we have been celebrating our 30th anniversary. August marks WIRE-Net's official birthday, which is being celebrated throughout the month at a number of events. We are proud of our 30-year history and are excited to continue this work for the next 30 years. We have been working on changes that will propel us forward. Watch for a big announcement about some of these changes at the end of the month!

Three Decades of Impact

Under John Colm's leadership WIRE-Net and the Greater Cleveland manufacturing sector has changed and grown significantly over the years. In just the last two years, WIRE-Net has grown to become the largest manufacturing focused membership organization in Greater Cleveland. Below are some of the highlights of WIRE-Net's 30-year history.

  • 1986—WIRE-Net founded by Cudell Improvement, Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, and Stockyard Area Development Association, as the Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network. John Colm was hired as the organization's first director. In 1987, 200 plant visits were made to local manufacturing firms to assess their needs and concerns. Job placement, technical assistance, and public infrastructure investment were cited then and still are central to WIRE-Net's work. WIRE-Net Service Area 1989
  • 1988—Westside Industrial Retention & Expansion Network incorporates as a 501 (c)(3), and signs up its first five members: Actron Manufacturing, Apex Paper Box, Summers Rubber Company, Universal Grinding, and Wood Dimensions.
  • 1989-1990—During his campaign for Mayor of Cleveland, candidate Mike White pledges to expand the WIRE-Net model citywide. At Mayor White's request, John Colm submits a report outlining a city-wide industrial retention initiative. WIRE-Net receives its first grant funding from Cleveland and Gund Foundations for its Hire Locally Program. MayorWhite
  • 1997—Hire Locally Program places 269 people in manufacturing employment, generating economic impact of $3.8 million in wages and $76,000 in payroll taxes for Cleveland.
  • 1999—WIRE-Net receives the prestigious Economic Development Program of the Year Gold Award from the Council for Urban Economic Development (now the International Economic Development Council). WIRE-Net partners with NASA Glenn and Cuyahoga Community College to develop a machinist training program, one of the first to teach to the National Institute for Metalworking Skills standards.
  • 2002-2004—WIRE-Net launches its Manufacturing Innovation for the Next Decade (MIND) program, an action think tank for innovators who are accelerating the pace of innovation within their companies. NEOCAM - the Northeast Ohio Campaign for American Manufacturing - a coalition of industry associations representing 600 Northeast Ohio member companies and 26,000 employees is organized. Several hundred attend NEOCAM's Manufacturing Town Hall meeting in August 2004. mind_logo_full
  • 2005—Nine companies enroll in Manufacturing Innovation for the Next Decade (MIND), representing seven industry sectors, 1,800 jobs, $1 B in sales and over $66 million in annual payroll. Over 100 business and community leaders participate in WIRE-Net's first Appreciative Inquiry Summit at Great Lakes Brewing Company, setting direction for the next three years.
  • 2007—Launches Great Lakes WIND Network, a statewide partnership with the State of Ohio and the Cleveland Foundation. WIRE-Net begins management of the CIRI program. Five-year Capital Investment Plan is completed with 10 projects funded at over $34 million in roadway improvements affecting nearly 350 manufacturing companies. Great Lakes Wind Network
  • 2008-2009—Secures New Max Hayes project funding to hire a consultant to support development of a 21st century career tech program. Surdna Foundation joins the Cleveland Foundation in supporting year one of the New Markets Initiative, a collaboration with MAGNET. WIRE-Net finalizes Eaton Bay project to revitalize the former Standard Products plant on West 110th, stimulating $1 million in new investment, retaining 15 jobs, and creating 24 new manufacturing jobs.
  • 2010—The Great Lakes WIND Network, now just GLWN, develops and delivers the nation's first wind farm supply chain workshop. 62 firms participate in a GE Lighting and Appliance Sourcing event with $3 million in contracts awarded. 100 business leaders participate in New Max Hayes design forum.
  • 2011—CIRI team plays instrumental role to bring Electric Cord Sets from Mississippi to Cleveland. Other key CIRI expansion projects include Nestle-LJ Minor, National Safety Apparel, and Miceli Dairy Products Co. WIRE-Net’s WorkAdvance partnership with Towards Employment allows WIRE-Net to expand its WorkSource recruiting program. NestleMicelis
  • 2012—Clinton Global Initiative America invites WIRE-Net to Chicago to announce its commitment to expanding 21st Century Career Technical Education at Max Hayes. Since 2007, the combined economic impact of CIRI's 61 service interventions result in 55 firms retained or expanded, 1,200 direct jobs retained, and over $59 million in annual payroll preserved.
  • 2014—WIRE-Net and strategic partner, MAGNET, combine forces to "Accelerate Cleveland Manufacturing," a unified core city manufacturing strategy made possible through the generous support of The Cleveland Foundation. WIRE-Net becomes an Ohio certified Workers' Compensation sponsor and launches partnership with Spooner Incorporated. AccelerateClevelandManufacturing-7
  • 2015—Apprenticeship Consortium of eight companies identify core competencies for Industrial Maintenance position and certification application is made to the State of Ohio. As workforce challenges top the priority list, WIRE-Net solutions include incumbent worker upskilling, entry level worker training, and provision of college interns.
  • 2016—WIRE-Net becomes the largest manufacturing focused membership organization in Northeast Ohio—membership climbs to 355 members, adding 76 new members—who employ over 20,000 people in our region. 2016 Annual Meeting
  • 2017—WIRE-Net’s board and staff developed the 2020 Vision which featured four strategic priorities to guide WIRE-Net’s work into 2020. First NOMAC apprenticeship cohorts and pre-apprenticeship program at Max Hayes High School is launched. WorkSource placement program sees a 50% increase in placement results. 17.1215PresentTrends2020Vision
  • 2018—President and Executive Director John Colm announced he will retire after leading the organization for 32 years. (You can read more about John's announcement and his impact on Greater Cleveland's manufacturing sector in Crain's)
Please join us at an upcoming event to join the celebration and watch for our big announcement at the end of the month.


For 30 years WIRE-Net has been a leading force to strengthen manufacturing in Greater Cleveland. We provide leading edge expertise and resources that proactively assist manufacturers in understanding and adapting to fast changing trends technology, talent, and organizational leadership. WIRE-Net connects leaders to each other and engages them in their communities. We lead, we connect, we partner.

Topics: Crains Cleveland Business, John Colm, WIRE-Net History

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