Rubber City renaissance

More people are invested in returning Akron to prominence

The folks from Akron who I’ve had the privilege to talk with have all, in their own way, conveyed a sense of pride in Akron’s progress. There seems to be a unique sense of place that’s being created by their efforts.

Many from the city like being affiliated with the rubber manufacturing giants that catapulted it to national relevance decades ago, which arguably made a greater contribution to its prominence than it’s connection to the canal system.

This month, I had a chance to explore its connection to one of the biggest names in that sector, Goodyear.

Our Uniquely article explores Goodyear Hall and Theater, thanks to the tact Diana Wellman, principal at the preservation consulting firm NaylorWellman, took when she put together the application to the National Register of Historic Places for the U.S. Department of the Interior. In it, she tied the physical building to the thinking that inspired it — that of corporate welfare. It was interesting to learn about the tactic Goodyear’s Superintendent Paul Litchfield applied, learn about his philosophy and see how it positioned Goodyear as a leader that helped establish the welfare capitalist movement across the U.S.

Michael Considine is also drawing from the city’s history, reviving the 93-year-old NORKA soda brand. After discovering the long-dissolved soda brand by happenstance, he used his experience in the beverage industry to revive it.

In a short time he was able to get the soda back on the shelves of a retailer that sold the brand decades ago before he took it national, which has also brought the story of its Akron roots across the country.

Back at home, columnist and Director of Planning and Urban Development for the City of Akron Jason Segedy also recalls Akron’s rapid population expansion in the early 20th century, due largely to its connection to the canal and later the success of the rubber businesses.

His story takes a dour turn, however, as it traces our timeline to the future where population has been in decline, which has had negative consequences for its housing stock. He offers a solution in this month’s column.

The Rubber City has had a history of success that got sidetracked. Fortunately, with many dedicated people living and working in the Greater Akron Area today, there’s reason to expect a bounce back.

Adam Burroughs is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Akron/Canton.