CLEVELAND — Some Northeast Ohio leaders hope Rocket Companies Founder and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will give Cleveland a charitable infusion, similar to the unprecedented $500 million he gave to the City of Detroit on March 25.
Rock Ventures announced the Gilbert Family Foundation will give Detroit $350 million and the Rocket Community Fund will contribute $150 million over a 10-year period. The philanthropic effort will include helping some 20,000 Detroit homeowners pay-off their back property taxes.
Ward 8 Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek praised Dan Gilbert's massive contribution to his hometown but was hoping Gilbert would do the same for greater Cleveland, especially after Northeast Ohio contributed some $70 million to assist with the renovation of the Rocket Mortgage Field House in 2018.
“They don’t pay property taxes when you look at what we’ve done for him and his affiliates," Polensek said. "Some people tell me we’ve done far more than Michigan.”
“When you think about what the people of Ohio, Cuyahoga County, and Cleveland have given them, it’s no wonder they’re all billionaires.”
"What they’ve done in Detroit I think is magnificent, and I would urge them to think about doing something likewise in Cleveland."
“They're making a difference in Detroit, they’re trying to stabilize that city, and God Bless them, but we need stabilization as well in Cleveland.”
Ward 7 Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones also credited Gilbert's efforts in Northeast Ohio and said it's up to Cleveland leadership to make the right decisions in trying to pave the way for more assistance.
“After he helps home, I hope that he helps his other home,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of help that we need here, and the City of Cleveland has to learn how to do better business.”
“If city hall does better business, and makes better deals, and puts the people first, then you will see that we will receive the support that we need.”
"Mr. Gilbert understands very well that nobody has, in regard to his businesses, has been more supportive of him than Cleveland.”
Rock Ventures responded to our story and told News 5 exclusively it will have a significant announcement for Cleveland, but wouldn't say when or what it will address.
It also outlined its financial and philanthropic commitment to northeast Ohio since 2005, and issued the following statement:
- Since 2005, Rocket Mortgage and the Rock Family of Companies has invested more than $2 billion in Cleveland and the surrounding area through real estate and community investments.
- Since 2012, our Cleveland-based team members with Rocket Companies have contributed more than 18,300 volunteer hours.
- In 2020, our Cleveland team members donated $169,028 during our annual Community Challenge, a month-long fundraising campaign where team members nominate, fundraise, donate and advocate for nonprofits they feel connected to personally. The top three nonprofits that benefited in Cleveland include the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Ohio, and Empower Sports.
- Since 2016, Rocket Mortgage has partnered with Cleveland Habitat, contributing nearly $2 million to the organization, as well as thousands of team member volunteer hours where we have worked alongside Habitat to build and renovate properties that have allowed Cleveland families to become brand new homeowners. The majority of these investments and volunteer hours have gone towards revitalizing Buckeye area neighborhoods.
- Rocket Mortgage was recognized as the No. 1 large company in Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer’s 2020 Top Workplaces, and No. 1 in the mid-size category in 2019.
- Our organization plans to add 700 jobs by the end of 2024, which would add $52.5 million in payroll every year, generating more than $1.31 million a year for the City in income taxes.
Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis acknowledged the effort made by Rock Ventures and pointed to its influence in helping to bring $272M in federal blight assistance to northeast Ohio in 2016. Rokakis said more help would be great for Cleveland, but said Detroit is in a much more difficult financial position, as it continues to deal with 55,000 to 60,000 vacant homes.
"I applaud my former college Mike Polensek for speaking out," Rokakis said “But, thank God we’re not Detroit, Detroit is so much more distressed.”
“There they allowed property taxes and water bills to go uncollected for years, shame on Detroit, shame on their leadership. By the time they decide to collect them, it really forced them into a position where they were foreclosing, not on vacant properties, they were foreclosing on occupied structures, people were losing their homes, they were being forced to the streets.”
Ward 12 Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli also had plenty of praise for Gilbert's contributions in beating back northeast Ohio blight, and he's hoping Gilbert will help once again in the near future.
“What they’re doing in Detroit, is the absolutely the right way to do it," Brancatelli said. "They’re working through third-party non-profit organizations.”
“We allowed Gilbert to take a gamble on our city and the casinos as they opened up, and hopefully he’ll take a gamble on us again and invest as they’re doing in Detroit.”