When companies are looking for someplace to grow or expand, they are looking at a broad set of metrics, not the least of which is the size of the region and the assets within easy reach. As we look to attract visitors and companies, and fight for our region’s share of resources and visibility among site selectors and statewide decision-makers, looking at Akron/Canton as a region or a metroplex to compete for funding, business investment and tourists has the opportunity to upsize success for all of us.
The Research Triangle in North Carolina, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the Twin Cities and Tampa/St. Petersburg are a few of many examples of regions that have worked together to upsize their visibility and positioning while retaining their unique and separate character, governmental infrastructure and local identity. That collaboration has created upside and opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
Many of our businesses have established Akron/Canton as a connected region for their own purposes of geographic organization and market focus. We share a density of manufacturing capacity and common opportunity in industries, like shale and polymers. We have shared assets, such as a regional airport, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a national park. With more than 70,000 students at our top seven colleges and universities, we have an emerging workforce and a vibrancy that supports employers that can draw from the entire region’s workforce.
And every day, the region’s workers cross county borders among Stark, Carrol, Summit, Portage and Medina counties to get to their jobs. Within five miles of I-77 and its run through Stark and Summit counties, there are almost 12,000 businesses with 160,000 employees.
As we talk to companies about opportunities to grow within and relocate to this region, they often look at choices in the broader geography of Akron/Canton as equal options. Drawing from the wider, well-connected market area is an advantage for us, as well as our opportunity to easily draw from the 500,000 employees in the broader Akron/Canton region.
As smaller metropolitan areas, Akron (No. 82) and Canton (No. 133) have fewer resources and smaller support ecosystems than some of our larger metro neighbors like Cincinnati (No. 29, 2.2 million people), Columbus (No. 32, 2.1 million) and Cleveland (No. 3,; 2 million). Together, Akron/Canton fits in the top 50 metropolitan areas, putting us in position to better access a larger share of the state’s resources and increase attention for prospective investment.
Expect to hear more about the Akron/Canton Metroplex as we highlight our physical proximity and connectedness, while still respecting our unique sense of place and separate infrastructures. We benefit by being a region made up of a large number of individual cities, broad townships and unique county infrastructures. Leveraging that diversity and emphasizing the tremendous opportunity the broader region can collectively deliver to those who invest and grow here can set us apart to the decision-makers who can bring opportunity and resources to the Akron/Canton Metroplex, and the people and businesses that drive this region.
Steve Millard is president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber. The chamber is focused on driving the success of the region’s business owners and employers, that supports growth and opportunity for the Greater Akron region.