Where Manufacturing Matters

WIRE-Net Executive Director, John Colm, Announces Retirement

Posted by Kristen Haning on Apr 30, 2018 3:54:31 PM

In August WIRE-Net will begin its search for a new leader as President and Executive Director John Colm announced he will retire in January 2019 after leading the organization for 32 years. His announcement came as part of his speech at the Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 26th.

JohnColm SpeechHere’s a passage of John’s speech to the more than 300 people in attendance at WIRE-Net’s 2018 Annual Meeting.

“When I started at WIRE-Net -- in November 1986, I thought this could be an interesting job…for a couple of years.  Little did I know that the response of manufacturing leaders would be so positive about joining together to tackle their challenges, or that we would become a regional economic development asset – even a national player in the clean energy sector. Now, over 30 years later, WIRE-Net is one of Ohio’s largest manufacturing organizations.  Over 325 WIRE-Net members employ more than 20,000 people across greater Cleveland. I believe we have helped manufacturing get respect from government and from the media.

It has truly been a privilege to lead the WIRE-Net team over the years as the organization has grown and evolved into one of greater Cleveland’s key economic development organizations. I’m really proud of the work and the results that the WIRE-Net team has accomplished: everything from securing millions of infrastructure dollars for improvements in Cleveland’s industrial districts, to our long standing partnership with and drive to create the New Max Hayes, to our annual support of hundreds of companies and their leaders so their businesses are more competitive and can remain important assets in the communities of greater Cleveland.”

Under John’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 John’s 32 years leading the organization.

  • 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

In 2014 we asked our past chairmen their thoughts about the man behind WIRE-Net—John Colm. Watch this video to see what they had to say:

This year WIRE-Net celebrates its 30th Anniversary and John’s 32 years of leadership. Please join us at an upcoming event to join in the celebration.

You can read more about John's announcement and his impact on Greater Cleveland's manufacturing sector in the latest issue of Crain's.


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

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