In 1990, Bob Bowman, an economic development specialist hired by the predecessor to the Greater Akron Chamber, asked me to travel with him to the Hannover Trade Fair, the world’s most important technology show. Since that time, members of our Economic Development department have attended the show every year to showcase our city and state to foreign companies, hoping to attract them to invest here and provide needed jobs for our residents.
And guess what? It’s worked. Akron’s long-term efforts to attract foreign investment have paid off handsomely in the number of manufacturing jobs and the amount of investment.
As of 2011, Akron has attracted 758 new jobs from foreign companies since 1990, with a current annual payroll of $73 million.
The new tax revenues help pay for services we all use. For the larger community, the city/chamber collaboration has attracted 613 new jobs for area residents, with an annual payroll of $51 million to cities such as Fairlawn, Green, Mogadore, Stow, Wadsworth and Copley and Bath townships.
From 2003 to 2011, I visited Israel, Finland, China, France, Germany and Japan in search of manufacturing jobs for Akron. The travel costs in the past decade alone were $78,698, an average of $7,869 per year. I used the time overseas to forge relationships with international business people and bring jobs back to Akron.
From 2003 to 2011, Akron has been successful in attracting 12 new international companies to open shop here; 10 new international companies have established operations in Greater Akron; and the city has worked with nine foreign companies to stay in Akron and expand (including Bridgestone and Sterling Jewelers).
Companies new to Akron because of the city’s job-attraction efforts: 7 Signal, Finland; ShinEtsu, Japan; FMI, China; Roechling, Germany; Shincor, Japan; NI Medical, Israel; Universal Tire, Korea; AMTEC, Germany; ICS Systems, Israel; Includis, Germany; Coletene Whaledent, Switzerland; and Item MB Kit System, Germany.
Companies new to the Greater Akron region linked to city travels: Soprema, France; DSM Elastomers, Netherlands; Kumho Research, Korea; Janorpot Int’l, Netherlands; Wacker Polymer, Germany; Technoform, Germany; Groenveld Transport, Netherlands; Pepperl and Fuchs, Germany; VMI Americas, Netherlands; and TLT Babcock, Germany.
Companies I have worked with to stay and expand in Akron (Akron area): Becker Pumps, Germany; Troester ESI, Germany; West Akron Polymer, France/ Brazil; Diamond Network, Japan-Mitsubushi; Sterling Jewelers, United Kingdom; Coretec, Canada; Eliokem, France; Bridgestone Research, Japan; and Aircraft Braking/Meggitt, United Kingdom.
The new and expanded companies have committed to provide a combined 5,259 jobs for area residents and $313 million in investment directly to Akron and Greater Akron.
For every dollar spent on my travel, $3,979 is coming back to Akron in investment in buildings and equipment, and an income tax increase of over $500,000 occurs every year.
Would you not invest $1 if you knew you would get a return of almost $4,000? It doesn’t happen by magic — it has taken hard work, cooperation, collaboration and exhaustive schedules to generate this success. Often, it takes multiple trips to develop the bonds and forge the type of relationships needed to convince someone to put their entire life savings on the line and move to Akron. But, as you can see, it pays off in the long run.
First sworn in as mayor in 1987, Don Plusquellic’s career in public service now spans five decades. The mayor’s most important mission, along with improving education, has been securing and fortifying Akron’s economic future. For more information, visit www.akronohio.gov.