Looking to the Future: Chamber Blueprint.
The Chamber’s Blueprint for our future work was completed and launched early in 2019, outlining key areas of focus and opportunity for our members and the organization. This is a starting point for our work to rebuild the way in which the Chamber plays its part on behalf of our businesses in the economic development ecosystem and in support of our region’s businesses.
Aligning with the Women’s Network
As of Oct 1, 2019 the Women’s Network joined forces with the Greater Akron Chamber to gain a seat at the inclusion table and expand the reach of programming for women. The Women’s Network Leadership Institute’s mission is to Connect, Inspire and Empower through best-in-class training, research and thought leadership. The aim is to be an influence that moves women forward in all aspects of corporate, community and civic engagement to move the needle for women in leadership. This alignment gives both the GAC and the WNLI broader reach and connectivity.
A New Approach To Health Benefits
GAC’s Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA), the Chamber Health Benefits Plan, launched on January 1, 2019. We ended 2019 with over 230 employer groups and over 3,400 participants. We have developed a number of partnerships with some of the region’s local chambers of commerce, allowing them to offer the product to their membership. Current local chambers that are offering the plan include: Cuyahoga Falls, Rootstown Chamber, Stow Munroe Falls Chamber and Wadsworth. The MEWA was a key part of the chamber’s ability to add 288 new members in 2019.
Grand Rapids InterCity Leadership Visit
There is a lot that can be learned from the successes of other communities that are also changing their economies. GAC hosted 42 businesses and community leaders in October for a 3 day visit with company and community leaders in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The visit was designed to explore the successes and challenges Grand Rapids has faced as it has reinvented itself and made progress in areas also critical to Greater Akron’s economic growth including economic inclusion, entrepreneurship and innovation, downtown development, air service, business support and workforce development.
Celebrating Small Business.
Telling the stories of success for our small businesses highlights the opportunity, innovation and grit of emerging owners and employers in Greater Akron. In 2019 the Chamber shifted the format of its business recognition awards. The new direction of the awards is to celebrate and tell the stories of exemplary business in the community and individuals that are shaping our community and local economy. Eight companies below were recognized at the event in May at Bounce.
A Resource for Business Owners
In 2019 we began the process of increasing our focus on the needs of the small and middle market business owners that are fueling growth in our region. In 2019, we establish the Business Owners Council to provide these leaders with an opportunity to connect with and learn from each other as well as to hear from speakers and topics relevant to the challenges associated with being a business owner. In 2019, the Greater Akron Chamber held two Business Owner’s Council sessions with 105 people attending and began to assess where opportunities might exist to do more for these companies.
On November 22, the Greater Akron Chamber and Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce partnered to present a panel of industry leaders from the Akron-Canton region who provided insight on key trends, industry issues, and their expectations for regional and national economic performance in the year ahead. Jacob Duritsky, Vice President of Strategy and Research at Team NEO, moderated the panel discussion. 250 Greater Akron Chamber and Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce members attended the event.
Elevate Greater Akron
The City of Akron, County of Summit, Greater Akron Chamber and many other regional partners continue to advance this regional economic development plan. The goal of this work is to transform the culture of economic development, to expand opportunity for all residents and position the Akron region on a new trajectory in an era of rapid global change. There are five areas within this plan whose strategies are driven by key stakeholders and leaders in the region. Over the past year, the Elevate Greater Akron plan launched its metrics, ensuring ongoing visibility and accountability to the work ahead. This work continues its focus on collaboration, inclusion and impact to advance the Greater Akron region.
Driving Economic Inclusion
The Greater Akron Inclusion Summit, held on September 12, 2019, outlined the business case for economic inclusion and shared the findings of Elevate Greater Akron’s Inclusion Narrative for the region. Over 400 business and community leaders engaged to learn more about the disparities that exist and the work ahead to ensure that all Greater Akron’s residents have opportunity. Also in 2019, the Chamber established a dedicated, senior leadership role for economic inclusion and created it’s Equity and Inclusion Committee which meets regularly to engage business leaders and key stakeholders on our economic inclusion agenda. These efforts are focused on supporting minority-owned companies; developing best practices and other resources to advance inclusion within our corporations and institutions; and raising awareness about minority-owned companies and company-focused inclusion efforts via storytelling.
Helping Companies Stay and Grow
New business retention and expansion outreach efforts were initiated focusing on connecting with 186 middle market and growth company targets. This initiative began in the third quarter of 2019 and we conducted 62 BRE visitations. Our large company outreach efforts to about 50 of the region’s largest companies continue with a collaborative approach among leaders in Summit County, the city of Akron and other key municipalities to ensure a cohesive understanding of their needs and a comprehensive response. We reached about half of those companies in 2019 and are seeing improved coordination to support their needs among our partners.
Helping companies connect with the support they need is critical. The Chamber worked with key partners to complete the first phase of a project to identify and catalog the resources available to small and mid-size companies, with specific resources for MBE/FBE companies. This work will be the foundation for 2020 efforts to improve efficient and effective ecosystem navigation for Greater Akron companies here and help drive more support for our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The Akron Canton Metroplex
The Akron Canton Metroplex: Regions drive economies and each day, our workforce crosses county borders to get to their jobs at one of many businesses that have established Akron-Canton as their preferred place to do business. Looking at Akron-Canton as a region or a “metroplex” of more than 1.2 million people allows us to draw from a wider, well-connected market area, work cooperatively to compete, and access a larger share of the state’s resources and attention. 2019 saw increased collaboration with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Stark Economic Development Board recognizing the power of driving our region as a preferred place for growth and investment. The term “metroplex” has been described as a way of talking about our physical proximity and connectedness, while still retaining our unique sense of place and separate infrastructures. Together we collaborated on a guide to the region called Experience Akron Canton and hosted an Economic Outlook event for Akron Canton MetroPlex stakeholders.
Transportation Budget Advocacy
The GAC and its partners led various advocacy efforts related to increasing the state’s gas tax and creating alternative vehicle user fees in order to provide a much needed increase in support for Ohio’s transportation infrastructure. These initiatives will provide critical dollars for projects across the state and other important investments critical to the Greater Akron Region.
State Capital Budget Recommendations
Responding to the request of the Governor’s office and the Ohio Senate, the Chamber assembled a Capital Bill Task Force comprised of local business leaders, non-profit organizations and community stakeholders to gather and review more than thirty potential qualifying projects seeking state capital investment. The process resulted in funding recommendations and additional advocacy for critical projects for our region.
Operating Budget Advocacy
The state’s 2020/2021 operating budget was an important area of focus in 2019 for the Chamber and its partners. We comprised a list of tangible funding priorities and advocated for a number of things, such as expanded workforce programs, Ohio Opportunity Zones, new investments in supporting skills-based credentialing programs for employees and increased employer involvement and action through industry sector partnerships.
Maintaining the Business Income Deduction
The Chamber was a key voice in the debate about the potential elimination of a critical small business income tax exemption affecting the smallest businesses in our region. By successfully preserving this tax benefit for small businesses, small businesses across Ohio are able to continue to reinvest those dollars into areas of growth and opportunity for their businesses.
Economic Development Projects:
The Bowery Project
Started in November 2018, the $42M Bowery District project is redeveloping, restoring and rehabilitating six historic – and long vacant – buildings on SouthMain Street as a mixed-use residential, retail and office complex. The entire project includes 36,000 SF of retail space, 4,000 SF of office space and more than 90 residential units. It was publicly reported that the project could have an economic impact of $245M and add more than 2,000 jobs over 20 years.
An $11M+ renovation and reuse of the United One Building at the corner of Main and Market Streets in Downtown Akron. Mayor Horrigan cut the ribbon at the 71-room boutique hotel on New Year’s Eve, 2019. The BLU-Tique Hotel anchors the Historic Arts District, and it is steps away from its sister venues, Bistro at BLU and Blu Jazz+ Nightclub. Due to the building’s historic designation, original decor such as terrazzo floors and inlaid marble were preserved and restored to maintain its neo-classical roots.
Summa Health System
The Summa Health Tower along East Market Street represents a $220M investment and strengthens the Greater Akron Region’s (well-deserved!) reputation for world-class health care. The project is a welcome addition to the revitalization of the commercial corridor between Downtown Akron and The East End. Visible from Route 8, the seven stories contain more than 343K SF. During its construction period, the project employed more than 500 skilled laborers and created more than 100 new jobs following its dedication in May 2019.
BOUNCE – a hub of entrepreneurship and technology situation in the former B.F. Goodrich headquarters along South Main Street – conducted its Grand Opening in May 2019. Currently, 50 companies representing the economy of tomorrow have taken up “residency” within BOUNCE’s 300K SF. BOUNCE offers a number of entrepreneurial programs for both tech and non-tech companies. Most recently, BOUNCE announced the MORTAR program, a 15-week business accelerator that works directly with entrepreneurs. The program is open to everyone with a non-tech business or idea but focuses on minority and women entrepreneurs.
Akron Public Schools
The new offices for Akron Public Schools at 10 North Main Street occupy the former SummaCare headquarters. In April of 2019, Akron Public Schools commenced with consolidating their 300 administrative employees into the modern building in Downtown Akron. The $10M+ relocation project involved a unique “land swap” involving Signet LLC, City of Akron, County of Summit and United Way of Summit County. Due to the efficiencies of consolidation and relocation, Akron Public Schools projects recouping their moving and acquisition costs in under 10 years.
Babcock & Wilcox
With the consolidation of its local workforce and relocation of its headquarters from North Carolina to The East End during the Fourth Quarter of 2019, Babcock & Wilcox is – once again – calling our community home. Babcock & Wilcox’s 500 employees occupy approximately 175K SF of custom-designed space in the transformational mixed-use project that includes office, retail and upscale residential living. Along with SummaCare, Babcock & Wilcox is a major tenant anchoring the redevelopment of the former Goodyear World Headquarters along East Market Street.
Firestone Industrial Park
The County of Summit, City of Akron and Development Finance Authority of Summit County spearheaded a unique public-private partnership to continue the ongoing revitalization of Firestone Park. Construction commenced during the First Quarter of 2019 on Firestone Industrial Park, the first inner-city industrial facility to be built in the City of Akron in over 50 years. Long-term plans include the construction of more than 500K SF of Class A space to house manufacturing, logistics/distribution and general office. Working with Pleasant Valley Corporation, ground was broken on Phase I, an 80K SF spec building designed to house light industrial along Firestone Parkway.
Investing over $100 million to redeveloped 80 acres for a 2.7M SF distribution center on the site of the former Rolling Acres Mall. Amazon is onboarding more than 1500 new employees in 2020/2021.
is making an 80 million reinvestment in its historic facility in Barberton retaining 700 manufacturing jobs.
Elevate Greater Akron plan launched its metrics, ensuring ongoing visibility and accountability to the work ahead. This work continues its focus on collaboration, inclusion and impact to advance the Greater Akron region.