Part of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway waterway, the Port of Cleveland lies on the south shores of Lake Erie in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. The Port of Cleveland is about 80 nautical miles (146 kilometers or 91 miles) east-southeast of the Port of Toledo. The Port of Cleveland is more than 355 kilometers (220 miles) northeast of the Port of Cincinnati which is on the banks of the Ohio River. The Port of Cleveland is the heart of a large metropolitan area that contains over 70 communities. The 2010 US Census reported that the Port of Cleveland was home to over 396.8 thousand people, and the metropolitan area had a population exceeding two million.
The Port of Cleveland's location on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River has played an important role in the city's growth. Railroads and the Ohio and Erie Canals helped make the Port of Cleveland an important business center. The early Port of Cleveland was based on the steel industry and manufacturing. While manufacturing is still important to the regional economy, the Port of Cleveland is home to corporate headquarters for many major companies in the United States. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has a facility, the Glenn Research Center, in the Port of Cleveland. One of America's best hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, employs more than 37 thousand people, making it the biggest employer in the Port of Cleveland. The city's research sector leads the Nation in areas like cancer treatment, biotechnology, and fuel cell research. The Port of Cleveland is also a leader in high technology. In 2005, Intel named the Port of Cleveland among its four Worldwide Digital Communities.
Before Europeans arrived in the future Port of Cleveland area, the Erie and Iroquois Nations inhabited the region. The Erie were an Iroquoian-speaking people that lived in fortified villages and grew beans, squash, and corn.
In the mid-17th Century, the Iroquois Confederacy declared war on the Erie and allied with the French, securing the French promise not to interfere in their war. By 1656, the Erie ceased to exist as an independent tribe. Those who were not killed were absorbed into the Iroquois. Those who escaped were adopted into the Seneca Nation, and many of today's Seneca in Oklahoma are likely descendants of the Erie.
Iroquois is the French name for the Hau de no sau nee people. The people of the Six Nations, or the Iroquois Confederacy, included the Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk, and Tuscarora tribes. They are proud to be the world's oldest participatory democracy.
The Iroquois Confederacy had been active in the Great Lakes area and the future Port of Cleveland since a solar eclipse in 1142. By the 1700s, they were one of North America's strongest Nations, and they made war on many Algonquian tribes.
In the early 1600s, the Iroquois fought the Huron and their French allies in the Beaver Wars. By 1628 when they defeated the Mahican people, they had a monopoly on the fur trade with the Dutch. They allied briefly with the French in their war against the Erie. By 1677, the Iroquois Nation was allied with England, and they took a large area of what is now New York, Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois. In 1758, the Iroquois sold their lands between the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers to the English crown.
When the American Revolution disrupted the Iroquois Confederacy, many of the people moved to Canada or Wisconsin. Today, there are more than 80 thousand Iroquois living in the United States and about 45 thousand in Canada.
A French trading post was established at the site of the Port of Cleveland in the middle 1700s. Three years after the American Revolution, the Ohio region was opened for settlement. The former Connecticut Colony claimed much of northeastern Ohio that became known as the Western Reserve.
In 1796, Moses Cleaveland, representing the Connecticut Land Company, founded and platted the new town of Cleaveland (which was changed to Cleveland in 1832 by the local newspaper). Growth in the Port of Cleveland was slow until the Ohio and Erie Canal was finished in 1832.
The first steamboat arrived in the Port of Cleveland in 1818, and the Department of Port Control began maritime operations in 1825. In 1837, after the opening of the Ohio and Erie Canal, the city grew to ten times its 1820 population, with over six thousand residents. By 1838, the Port of Cleveland was a busy harbor. The Port of Cleveland welcomed 2400 ships carrying about $20 million in cargo.
By 1840, the Port of Cleveland was among the Great Lakes most important cities with Detroit and Buffalo. The major cargoes moving through the Port of Cleveland included food and basic necessities. In 1842, the first iron ore shipment arrived in the Port of Cleveland, ultimately becoming the city's main business. In 1848, the Port of Cleveland became a national port when a ship built at the Ohio-based Lorain ship yard sailed from Cleveland to San Francisco.
In 1855, the St. Marys Falls Canal (also the Soo Canal) connected Lake Superior with Lake Huron, and the Port of Cleveland became an important transshipment point for cargoes that included lumber, coal, copper and iron ore, and farm produce.
The American Civil War stimulated new industries in the Port of Cleveland including iron and steel, oil refining, metals fabrication, and chemical manufacturing. By the end of the 19th Century, suburban trains linked the towns with and surrounding the Port of Cleveland. By the beginning of the 20th Century, iron ore tonnage moving through the Port of Cleveland had reached the millions.
By the 1930s, the Port of Cleveland was a modern metropolitan area, and the Port of Cleveland was linked to the Europe and Scandinavia when service was established from the port to the Atlantic Ocean. However, the economy was hit hard by the Great Depression. World War II brought a resurgence to the Port of Cleveland, but the traditional industries continued to decline. By 2000, the population of the Port of Cleveland was half of what it had been in the mid-20th Century. Jobs disappeared, and many left to find work in other areas. The African American community was less able to move and, in 1966, racial violence erupted in the Port of Cleveland's Hough district. Environmental pollution was a major problem. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River "caught fire" when floating chemical wastes ignited.
When the city's population peaked at one million in 1950, the Port of Cleveland was thriving. In 1959, opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway made it possible for large cargo ships to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Port of Cleveland. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority was created in 1968 to manage Port of Cleveland maritime operations.
When the first African American mayor, Carl Stokes, was elected in 1967, the Port of Cleveland began a long-term revitalization process. Much of the Port of Cleveland's downtown was rebuilt and environmental clean-up efforts were undertaken. The Port of Cleveland gained the BP Tower in 1985 and the Key Tower in 1991, changing the city's skyline.
In 1987, Ohio regulations allowed port authorities to issue bonds to fund community development projects. In 1993, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority created its Development Finance Group to provide the funds to build the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Since then, the port authority has contributed almost $2 billion to non-profits, local governments, and companies for projects that have helped redesign the region.
In 1996, the port authority created a Common Bond Fund program as a way to finance Ohio businesses and organizations. In 1997, the Port of Cleveland bought the future Cleveland Bulk Terminal on Lake Erie's shoreline. The ore-loader was moved from Lorain to the Port of Cleveland Bulk Terminal, increasing cargo volume at the terminal by reducing transportation costs for iron ore.
The Port of Cleveland port authority became a partner in the Northeast Ohio Development Fund in 2004, creating an entity that could receive federal New Markets Tax Credits and becoming the first port in the United States to engage directly in this program.
In 2011, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority published a Strategic Action Plan that focused on waterfront renewal, economic vitality, and jobs. By the end of the year, the port authority had provided almost $2 million to fund many construction and expansion projects in the Port of Cleveland area.
In 2012, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (in the US Department of Transportation) awarded the Port of Cleveland the Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award for its annual increases in international cargo tonnage traveling through the Seaway. The same year, the Port of Cleveland opened the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, an urban haven for wildlife on Lake Erie.
Today, heavy industry is still important to the Port of Cleveland economy. The metro area is home to a diverse manufacturing sector that produces steel and steel products, vehicles, auto parts, chemicals, electronic equipment, medical products, processed foods, and greeting cards. The service sector has grown to become a key part of the Port of Cleveland economy, with many health care, insurance, government, and banking and finance businesses.
The modern Port of Cleveland is one of the Great Lakes' busiest ports, and vast road and rail networks connect the port to a huge market. The Port of Cleveland has an active arts and cultural community, and the education sector offers many universities. The Port of Cleveland is home to the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Cleveland Browns football team and Cleveland Indians baseball. The "Emerald Necklace," the Port of Cleveland's park system encircles the city and contains the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Lakefront State Park. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park stretches from the Port of Cleveland to Akron.
During the Port of Cleveland's first year of operation, it received $196 thousand in imports and delivered $38 thousand in exports. Today, it is one of the Great Lakes' busiest ports, supporting almost 18 thousand jobs and contributing $1.8 billion to the local economy each year. Today, the Port of Cleveland handles about 13 million tons of cargo every year.