People are making a positive difference in the city of Akron

Good things are happening in the city of Akron and I’ve had the good fortune recently to talk to some of the people playing a key role in these positive developments.

I’ll start at the top with Akron’s new Mayor, Dan Horrigan. The Akron native and graduate of both St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and Kent State University has set out to meet as many people as he can in the city and find ways to solve problems that matter to them.

“One of our strongest charges is to be as efficient as possible,” Horrigan says. “If you’re efficient, you can do more. Any organization, I don’t care if it’s the clerk’s office or the 7-Eleven, every organization, whether it’s government or business needs to reinvent itself to meet what its market is.”

Spirit of camaraderie
The Downtown Akron Partnership launched an effort last February to fill vacant storefronts in the city with fresh entrepreneurial ventures that would bring people downtown. And early returns on the program show it’s making that happen.

A number of businesses have opened their doors and are off to good starts, says Christine Vadala, business specialist for the nonprofit organization.

“There is a lot of camaraderie in the city of Akron,” Vadala says. “One of our focuses is to connect people to whatever resources they need. Akron is a great place and once you’re in the family, they really wrap their arms around the small business owner and try to help them in any way they can.”

A friend for life
In Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood, First Glance is doing its part to help young boys and girls who have experienced hardships in life to get things turned around.

“It’s putting students in the room with positive mentors who walk through life with them and stay consistently,” says Jessica Swiger, ministry director at First Glance.

“There have been students I’ve been working with for five or six years. We don’t walk out. Even when they are making bad decisions, we continue to pursue them. We believe they can change when they are ready.”

Part of the family
At Akron Glass Works, the subject of this month’s Uniquely Akron/Canton, it’s just about having fun — and being part of a family that has a passion for glassblowing.

“What keeps us going is the people that are involved and the experiences they have,” says Sandy Holata, marketing director at Akron Glass Works. “We get excited to see customers come in who are eager to get started.”

It all contributes to a city that is off to a great start in 2016. ●

Mark Scott is senior associate editor for Smart Business Akron-Canton.