When I was a college student, I interned my junior and senior years at the Akron Beacon Journal as a politics reporter. My desk sat in the back corner of the newsroom, next to an elderly woman named Fran Murphey, who by the time she died in 1998 had spent 55 years as Beacon Journal reporter.
Fran’s desk, or rather series of desks joined together, were a literal patchwork history of Akron. Fran was a legend in the journalism community and built her extraordinary career by telling stories about the “little” ones, ordinary men and women who built the city.
During these two years, from fall 1989 to spring 1991, Akron was in the midst of an economic downturn, just as many similar urban centers were. My drive into downturn ended with a lot of empty storefronts and parking lots scattered across the city, which didn’t provide much excitement for a 19-year-old journalism major.
But the job, itself, was exciting, and Fran helped pass the downtime by engaging me in regular conversation. Soon, I looked forward to picking her brain and listening to stories about the earlier days of Akron, when the city was an economic force to be reckoned with.
In 1999, when I became editor of Smart Business Akron/Canton, I was excited to see what had changed in downtown Akron. At that time, things were just beginning to pick up.
Over the next several years I watched investments in Canal Place, the University of Akron and a strengthened polymers sector take Akron to heights it hadn’t seen in half a century.
So I’m excited to announce Smart Business’ new luncheon series, which each quarter will focus on one of the Akron region’s strengths and feature a one-on-one with the people behind it. Fran would have called them the “littles,” but we’re calling them Power Players.
As we plan our first luncheon, we invite all of you to help us spark lively discussions about the city and region’s economic development by offering your recommendations for speakers. Then, keep your eyes and ears open for our announcement about the yearlong slate of speakers and the first luncheon.
Akron may never go back to the way it was in the early 20th century, but that doesn’t matter. Today, the city and region has established a new future that would have made Fran Murphey proud.