Cleveland Renaissance

Cleveland Renaissance

LeBron James Homecoming Highlights Ohio’s Rust-Belt Renaissance

The promised arrivals of LeBron James and the Republican National Convention are accentuating the way Ohio has shaken off its Rust Belt malaise, making Cleveland a headline instead of a punchline.

Ohio has boasted the sixth-healthiest U.S. state economy since the 18-month recession ended in June 2009, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index. Unemployment was down and the state was adding manufacturing jobs even as the largest city in its most populous county snagged the high-profile convention and the return of its prodigal son basketball star.

“Ohio is making a big impact,” said Lisa Wade of Cleveland, 48, a cook at the Winking Lizard Tavern outside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where James will play. “They want us.”

States and cities get few chances to change their images once they have been set in the popular imagination. Boosters in Cleveland and throughout the state are seizing on the opportunity with bold predictions about the millions of dollars that will be pumped into the Northeast Ohio economy and the opportunity to win another look from those who may have written them off.

James, 29, played seven seasons for the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers before, as he said in a 2010 national television special, taking his talents to Miami, where he led the team to a pair of championships. He said July 11 he was returning, three days after the Republican National Committee announced that it was choosing the city over Dallas to host its 2016 convention