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Issue Date: January 2014 Issue

Most Interesting People 2014: Jon Stahl

Jon Stahl


Why he's interesting: Stahl gained attention during the past year for heading an ambitious new project called Cleveland SkyLift. Although still in the development stages, the $200-million, 6-mile lakefront cable-car transportation system would link spots, such as the Flats and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, to the rest of downtown.

Sky High: In 2008, Stahl co-founded LeanDog, a software development company with the business model to promote innovation. The same ideal applies to his SkyLift concept. "If you don't have a crazy goal, then you don't stretch yourself. SkyLift may seem like a big plan, but even if we do half of it, it would still be a huge win for Cleveland."

Business Afloat:When he started LeanDog, Stahl rented office space on the former Hornblower's Barge and Grill. He then purchased the vessel, which is 20 years older than the Titanic, in 2011. About 20 of his 50 employees work on the barge, which is docked in Burke Lakefront Airport. "The process was rough. We had to do a massive renovation that took over two years. It was totally worth it though."

Water Works: Not long after moving his business to the lakefront, he started to think of other ways to develop the area. "SkyLift really began with the idea of creating a small floating village along our waterfront." But after talking with the Port of Cleveland, the RTA and ski lift manufacturers in Switzerland, Stahl began shifting his attention toward transportation. "There is a lot of undeveloped land near the water, so why not utilize the very asset that made us build the city in the first place?"

Face Time: Stahl has brought his cable-car prototype to events throughout the city, from Case Western Reserve University's homecoming to Browns games. "There's no better way to get this idea off the ground than actually putting the people inside the eight-person car. Only then can they really get a feel for what it might be like to look out one day and get an intimate view of Cleveland."

Adrenaline Junkie: "About three times a year I take my company and do something extreme. If you're into rock climbing, we all go and learn how to rock climb. We've also gone camping. We also did some extreme breakfast cook-offs, where we all compete to make a meal. A couple of our employees have never been to Geneva-on-the-Lake, so we all went out there and had a crazy scavenger hunt up and down the strip. But the purpose of all this is to reconnect."

Hoppy Ending:Market Garden Brewery created a SkyLift beer for a promotional event Stahl held at the Ohio City hot spot in November. The hoppy, amber ale was so popular the brewpub is working on making more. Look for it to be bottled and distributed later this year. "As a beer lover, I couldn't have been happier with the results."

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