Just as in the glory days of rubber, Stark and Summit counties manufacturing strength still lies in materials processing although today, the offerings range from plastics molding to metal machining and electronics assembly.
But Robert Algera is worried. As director of business growth for the Akron Regional Development Board, Algera says theres a weak link in the chain.
We supply parts to many different industries, but the weakness is that, even though we have a fairly diverse group of customers, were selling very cost-competitive items. When a lower-cost provider comes along, were at risk.
The challenge, says Algera, is to keep new and existing companies competitive on a global basis.
We need to find ways to enhance our productivity through smart use of capital equipment, and to use information technology to become more customer responsive.
Now, whats our name again?
Acquisitions and branding trends have spawned new names and logos for growing companies everywhere. Now, the parent company of North Americas largest critical-shipment carrier has relabeled what the country has come to know as Roberts Express.
Established in 1947 and based in Akron as Roberts Cartage, the trucking company was acquired in 1971 by Emery Airfreight. Five years later, Emerys former treasurer bought the freight carrier, renamed it Roberts Express Inc., and eventually sold it to Roadway Services Inc., which later became Caliber Systems Inc. In 1998, FDX parent company of FedEx added the shipper to its arsenal as part of its acquisition of Caliber.
In late January, FDX renamed itself FedEx Corp., and Roberts became FedEx Custom Critical Inc.
The ever-changing company name doesnt concern president and CEO Bruce Simpson, who joined Roberts in 1983. Fact is, hes eager to get his new letterhead.
Ive been around here since the entrepreneurial days and I think this is the most meaningful, exciting thing thats ever happened to us. Were finally being identified with one of the great names of the world, he says. FedEx has a brand name, and the attributes of us as a custom critical carrier clearly identifies the value and meaning of our service.
Behind the scenes
As executive director of administration to Summit County Executive Tim Davis, Karen Doty sees a great deal of second-guessing when it comes to the countys agenda.
One of the things that poor Mr. Davis is always getting bashed for is his trips abroad. Its an easy thing for people to misunderstand they think hes taking a vacation on county money, she says. But what hes doing is developing economic partnerships with various industrial centers in Europe, and the point of these industrial partnerships is to open up trade opportunities for local businesses, give them a vehicle to get into the European economy, and add job opportunities for people in the county.
Doty says shed like to see the county viewed as a force that works to secure a broad and diversified economy.
So, lighten up, already.
If youre considering reallocating or increasing your charitable donations this year, it may help to know that your gift can go further if you do your homework beforehand.
When shopping for a charity, look for one that gives 75 to 80 percent of its income back to the people it services, says Bill Ginter, president of the United Way of Summit County.
Ginter, who is the former president of Advanced Elastomer Systems of Akron, recently spoke to a group of Leadership Akron alumni on the state of philanthropy.
An efficient charity is spending 20 percent on keeping the shop running, he says.
Shopping for a worthy cause is the same as shopping for anything else.
Be an informed consumer. Dont be an impulse buyer. When you impulse buy you generally make a bad buy.