One of the great things about my role at the Greater Akron Chamber is that I’m leading an organization that’s helping drive economic development and prosperity for the people of Greater Akron (Summit, Portage and Medina counties). We’ve been around for 107 years, and with so broad a mission, it’s my job to keep us focused on our role as an agent of positive change in Northeast Ohio.
Here’s what I see as the six strategic priorities for building the region’s future:
- Grow Greater Akron: Retain and attract business and talent. The chamber is the only economic development organization in Ohio to be accredited by the International Economic Development Council, the largest group of its kind in the world. In 2013, 14 local companies saw location and expansion investments of $123.8 million, with 701 new jobs and 1,201 retained jobs.
- Invest in human capital: Build a competitive workforce prepared for the jobs of the future. Capitalizing on Akron’s rich foundation in the sciences, the expansion of the Akron STEM middle school to a new high school and the addition of Rootstown’s Bio-Med Science Academy to the Ohio STEM Learning Network are just two efforts the chamber has supported with an eye to the future.
- Improve perceptions: Tell our story locally, nationally and globally. The chamber champions the entire region and the amenities that make this a great place to build a business and raise a family. The Akron metro area helped boost Ohio into second place in Site Selection’s annual survey.
- Revitalize our physical assets: Support the area by enhancing quality of place. Thriving, vibrant city centers attract investment to the entire region. The chamber has supported new energy in downtown Kent, Akron and other regions.
- Enhance value for core businesses: Provide membership benefits and services that give small businesses operational and financial advantages. In 2013, nearly 4,600 people shared best practices at 70 chamber events, setting an attendance record.
- Create the capacity to succeed: Build a culture of leadership and implementation by strengthening stakeholder relationships. The chamber partners with Akron Tomorrow to maximize resources, as well as with regional partners such as Team NEO, NorTech, Cleveland Plus and MAGNET.
We have a lofty goal over the next five years — generate more than $2 billion in local investment — and it’s going to take a lot of work. So we will market our region to prospective companies around the world, as well as build, start and strengthen businesses in our three-county region. We will lobby in Columbus and Washington, D.C., for a business-friendly environment, and strategize to attract and retain talented individuals.
It’s going to take a group effort to accomplish these goals, but together we can create great things, right in our own backyard. ●
Daniel C. Colantone, CCE, is president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber. The chamber is an economic development organization committed to the continual improvement of the community, economy and the quality of life in the Greater Akron Region. As part of that commitment, Dan led collaborative community efforts to create a five-year economic development strategic plan, Advance Greater Akron 2014-2018.