We have so much to learn from each other. This simple premise is the idea that has grown into the successful InterCity Leadership Visits organized by the Greater Akron Chamber. Every two years, a delegation of leaders representing private, public and nonprofit sectors travel to another city to meet with counterparts and discuss issues of concern.
The purpose is to expose a delegation of Greater Akron leaders to innovative ideas, programs and best practices, which can be adapted and implemented in Greater Akron. Our sharing of ideas, experiences and behind-the-scenes discussions, as well as the opportunity for the Greater Akron delegation to spend time together, have enabled participants to learn from the experiences of another community, better understand our community’s assets and build relationships that help us successfully address our local challenges and opportunities.
History of the InterCity Visit
In 2011, the Greater Akron Chamber debuted its InterCity Leadership Visit program to Milwaukee with a group of 40 key leaders. Both Greater Akron and Milwaukee drew strategic advantage from a core strength in scientific technology combined with a local industrial heritage: water for Milwaukee, biomedicine for Akron.
In 2013, the chamber led 58 Greater Akron community and business leaders on another InterCity Leadership Visit, to Omaha, Nebraska. The focus was on three priorities: talent and workforce, urban revitalization and economic development. This gave participants an opportunity to look closely and pragmatically at key elements of the Omaha experience. In response to that visit, The Greater Akron delegation identified four priorities: a successful hotel in downtown Akron; job creation through diverse, creative entrepreneurship in an innovative, friendly environment; retaining and attracting professional talent and supporting educational initiatives; and collaborative innovation through co-location of professions and industries of people. Initiatives in support of all these priorities are underway.
The model has proved successful in other ways. Young professionals in Greater Akron have taken team trips to Detroit and Pittsburgh to sample artistic, urban and business creativity. The Knight Foundation sponsored the Akron2Pittsburgh trip, modeled after an earlier one-day trip to Detroit. Both Pittsburgh and Akron seek to attract more people to live downtown and within the city.
Next up, Greenville, South Carolina
We are convening the next InterCity Leadership Visit to Greenville, South Carolina, on Sept. 27, 2015.
Once known as the Textile Capital of the World, Greenville has had to reinvent itself to adjust to a changing economy and local migration patterns. Today, Greenville is a diverse conglomerate of corporate and research companies. Health care contributes the largest employment sector, while there is also a heavy automotive industry presence, and a strong educational foundation that includes 11 colleges and universities and a new downtown elementary school dedicated to engineering. Greenville has a strong commitment to its arts community with several initiatives having landed the city on the list of Top 100 Arts Towns in the U.S.
This diverse approach to redefining an area is what makes the Greenville story a worthy model to study and possibly adapt for the betterment of Greater Akron.
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.