People weigh all kinds of factors when it comes to deciding where to live: weather, family, jobs, affordability. That highly personal choice can affect others, though, when it comes to the economic health of a city or region. 

This is especially true in a place like Cleveland. The city does a good job of retaining talent, but some findings point out that it is a struggle to get new people here.

Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, prefers to cite findings like a recent New York Times analysis that rank Cleveland as one of the top metro areas in the United States when it comes to getting more college-educated workers. Cleveland has done better in recent years than areas with higher costs of living, like New York City and Chicago.  

“New York City, San Francisco, those places [are] wonderful places to visit, very challenging places to live, especially as a 20-something,” Shah told Signal Cleveland. 

Shah and his group remain bullish that there’s no better place than Northeast Ohio to live, work, and play. It’s part of the reason GCP was one of the hosts of the first “Summer in the Land” networking party June 7.

The goal was to connect young people from across the country who are working or interning here to each other as well as to the city. Those connections might yield dividends down the road, leaders hope, by influencing the young workers to stay or return. 

Party planners tapped into a few Cleveland calling cards for the event: A huge white #ThisIsCLE sign stood ready for selfies under the Playhouse Square chandelier. Cleveland Cavaliers’ mascot Moondog slung black T-shirts into a cheering crowd. Cans of Ohio-brewed beer from Brewdog were among the free food and drink offerings.

Signal Cleveland talked to some of the roughly 500 young people who attended, asking if they currently plan to stay in the city or leave after graduation. Their responses below are lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Markus Jenkins, 24, recent Cleveland State University MBA graduate (originally from Cleveland’s West Side) 

  • Community Outreach Associate at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
  • Definitely wants to stay in Cleveland
  • “The goal sometime down the line is open a grocery store, looping in my environmental background with a business background and love for entrepreneurship and just love for my community and Cleveland in general.”

Liz Gatto, 22, recent John Carroll University graduate (originally from Rocky River) 

  • Multimedia communication intern with Mas LaRae 
  • Definitely wants to leave Cleveland  
  • “I ideally want to move to Florida. I really like the vibe there. I’ve always lived in Cleveland, so I really want to branch out and move on.” 

Cameron Cecere, 23, John Carroll University graduate student  (originally from Rochester, New York) 

  • Sales associate with Whoa Dough 
  • Definitely wants to leave Cleveland, though he plans to stay for some additional time after his August graduation
  • “I do want to move to Florida as well. I’ve always loved Florida, and I just think that what it comes down to is the weather and the beaches. I enjoy the warm weather a lot. I feel like I’m a lot more productive in warm weather, and it’s much more enjoyable to be around.” 

Abhiram Prathipati, 18, Virginia Commonwealth University (originally from the Washington, D.C., area)  

  • Canvassing for the One Fair Wage initiative
  • Unsure about returning to Cleveland
  • “It just depends on where I get into law school, honestly. It’s just like a big wildcard where I end up…I don’t have any complaints about the city [Cleveland], but I don’t have many complex thoughts about it yet. I think I still need to develop that more.”

Myla Hodge, 20, Cleveland State University junior  (originally from Willoughby) 

  • Destination Management intern with Destination Cleveland
  • Probably plans to stay in Cleveland 
  • “I’m a biology major and I plan to go into medicine. Cleveland Clinic is definitely of high interest to me, so I’ll be here for a long time, but I still want to explore.”  

Crystal Ruiz, 21, Cleveland State University senior (originally from Cleveland)

  • Human resources intern with College Now Greater Cleveland
  • Probably plans to leave Cleveland 
  • “I already want to go outside of the U.S. to study veterinary medicine. I know I want to be a little bit everywhere, pretty much.”  

Sean Morgan, 32, Cleveland State University student (originally from Maple Heights) 

  • Seasonal assistant / off-season intern with the Cleveland Cavaliers 
  • Definitely wants to leave Cleveland
  • “The crime is ridiculous [in Cleveland]…I just want to pick my family up and move, eventually, when I make more money.” 

Tai Roberts, 19, Florida Institute of Technology sophomore (originally from Euclid) 

  • Interning with Lincoln Electric 
  • Unsure, but probably would not want to come back to Cleveland  
  • “I think being away in college will help me realize I want to be away again for my career.”

Hunter Gandee, 21, University of Michigan senior (originally from Temperance, Mich.)

  • Mechanical engineering intern at Burns & McDonnell’s Akron office 
  • Definitely planning to move to Cleveland after his December graduation
  • “My girlfriend’s at Case Western, so I definitely plan to come here. I’ve really enjoyed the company that I’m working with and have enjoyed the area a lot, too.” 

Hannah Kelly, 20, University of Akron junior (originally from Youngstown, but has also lived in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas)

  • Project management intern at the J.M. Smucker Co.
  • Probably not staying in Cleveland 
  • “I have a weird philosophy about work, where I prefer to see different areas first and then come back home.”

Amy Morona covers higher education for Signal Cleveland, in partnership with Open Campus.

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.