Elevate Greater Akron

Driving the growth of our region’s small and mid-sized firms

There’s a bit of a movement afoot. When I arrived here in Greater Akron and took on my new role leading the Chamber of Commerce in early June of last year, I took the time to talk to people. A lot of people. With more than 300 conversations with business owners and leaders of all types, I learned a lot.

This is a community where people work really hard. The work ethic and pride of people in the region is obvious. And Greater Akron is a well-connected community. We benefit from being big enough to be in the top 100 metro areas of the United States, yet we are small enough that, with relatively minimal effort, you can get access to the region’s civic, political and business leadership. Most are only two to three relationships away. That connectivity is a strength.

This is also a place where you can grow quickly — personally and professionally. The community isn’t clogged with folks who won’t get out of the way. And there are ample institutions and organizations that welcome involvement and engagement. That means that those who get engaged can make an impact in the place they live and work — a quality that not only allows us as a community to be productive, but one that also attracts others who want to make an impact as well.

During the first six months of my tenure, in conjunction with the city of Akron, Summit County and the GAR Foundation, we looked closely at Akron’s economy, its challenges and its opportunities. In that process, we outlined eight findings for our economy and five strategies for advancing the success of our region, its companies and its workforce. I’ll use this space periodically to dive a little deeper into the work. The summary is available at www.greaterakronchamber.org/ElevateGreaterAkron.

As a small or mid-market business leader, one of the most direct connections to this work is a clear understanding that the success of small and middle-market firms is one of our region’s best bets for long-term success. Nationally, 77 percent of new jobs are coming from 1 percent of firms. These are companies that are creating 10 to 30 new jobs each year from their growth. They don’t garner headlines often, but they are the quiet energy behind any chance we have for long-term, sustainable success.

You’ll see more from us on this work over the next few months. But you can expect more attention, more focus and more support for your companies as we work to grow the opportunity in our region, not only for your companies, but for the people we have in Greater Akron who will also share in the prosperity you bring to our region.

We are gearing up to begin to do more to reduce the friction that impacts your growth. And we will be working to tell your stories. We can’t do this work without the engagement of leaders of companies like yours. If you want to be a part of the efforts we are driving to Elevate Greater Akron, drop me a note or give me a call. I’d welcome your involvement to shape the work. Let’s talk soon.

Steve Millard is president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber, which is focused on driving the success of the region’s business owners and employers that supports growth and opportunity for the Greater Akron Region.