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Genna Petrolla wants you to tell her and other Clevelanders what it’ll take to get you to stay in Cleveland. For the Wednesday, November 18, happy-hour event “I Will Stay If … ,” organizer Petrolla is encouraging proud Northeast Ohioans — and those on the fence — to bring photos and stories of what makes Cleveland a good place to live or what would make it a better place to live, and share with the gathering at the Bier Markt’s Speakeasy (1948 W. 25th St.) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“We’re just trying to create a forum for people to share their ideas,” says Petrolla, a Youngstown-area native and lifelong Ohioan who’s been in Cleveland five years. “Some people say, ‘Oh, well, you either choose to live here or you don’t.’ I don’t believe in just existing. What are you doing to make this the best place it can be, and other people want to live in?”

“I Will Stay If …” is the first Cleveland edition of a program sponsored by Great Lakes Urban Exchange, an institute that’s trying to drum up civic pride and marketing solutions for small post-industrial cities from St. Louis to Buffalo. She’s been in touch with locals and former locals who sent photos of their friends, family and favorite haunts.

Petrolla hopes attendees will bring pictures, post them on white boards and talk about the images. She says she’ll collect them and use them as part of a presentation to “decision makers.” Some citywide shot-callers will be in attendance, including Ward 17 councilman Matt Zone and Policy Bridge Board Chairman Randell McShepard. Petrolla says too many organizations try to combat brain-drain issues with the same old talk of “better jobs” and “better transit.”

“We need a more targeted approach,” says Petrolla. “And [cities] need to listen to younger people to brand the region as a place people want to be. We’re never going to be a New York or Chicago, but we do have a lot of assets.”

The event is free and open to the public. A $5 suggested donation includes a drink coupon, discounts and raffle entry. — D.X. Ferris

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