Greater Akron Chamber’s Annual Meeting Honors and Recognizes Economic Development Leadership and Accomplishments in 2023

Nearly 900 business, community, and civic leaders came together at the John S. Knight Center for the Greater Akron Chamber’s 117th Annual Meeting on March 14, 2024, for an evening of celebration, connection, camaraderie, and… polymers.

“Our primary focus at the Chamber is to support a prosperous, thriving business community,” said Steve Millard, President and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber. “As we reflect on 2023 and look ahead to 2024, we have a lot to celebrate and look forward to. Our successes would not be possible without the support of our members and partners, and the many ‘wins’ we celebrated last week are a true testament to the collaborative power we have as a business community here in Greater Akron.”

GAC outgoing Board Chair Tia Ramlow, President, Great Work Employment; and Chair-Elect Julie Brandle, President, Metis Construction Services, LLC; shared highlights from the Chamber’s work in 2023, all of which can be viewed in our 2023 Annual Report. The two also shared the work ahead for 2024. A few examples of the work noted include:

  • A 20% increase in member company participation in the Chamber Health Benefit Plan and double-digit growth in the Small Business Multiple Employer 401k (MEP)
  • Support for 27 closed business attraction and retention projects yielding over 400 new jobs, $33 million in payroll and more than $240 million in investment in Greater Akron
  • Proactive outreach to almost 300 businesses to understand perspective on operations and growth issues to facilitate investment and retention in the region
  • Launched to connect the region’s businesses with more than 200 help and support resources
  • Partnered with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce to form the Akron-Canton Advocacy Alliance in an effort to maximize the voice of the region’s businesses on local, state, and federal policies
  • Convened nearly 50 events with more than 4,000 member attendees

In addition to an update on the work of the organization, attendees experienced a panel discussion on the Polymer Industry Cluster, featuring key industry leaders and partners that are at the core of the work, including: Brian Anderson, Vice President, Polymer Industry Cluster; Lakisha Miller Barclay, CAE, EA, Executive Director & CEO, Rubber Division, ACS; Hans Dorfi, Senior Vice President of Product Development, Bridgestone Americas; and Erin Spring, Senior Director of Global Materials Science, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

The panelists outlined recent efforts to capitalize on the region’s rich history in rubber and advanced materials, highlighted the recent wins with the federal designation as the Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub of the U.S. by the EDA, outlined the economic impact of that work, and what lies ahead for the Cluster. This video shares a glimpse of where we started and where we’re headed in support of the polymer industry.

“This is a transformational time for our region as we are at the cusp of becoming a globally renowned leader in sustainable polymers and advanced materials,” said Brian Anderson, Vice President of the Polymer Industry Cluster. “Since the announcement of the federal designation, we’ve had a lot of momentum and conversations with companies looking to get involved in the Cluster and interested in coming to Akron to get connected to these opportunities. Success with these efforts in 2024 will include big gains for workforce, entrepreneurship, and R&D initiatives in the region.”

The event concluded with the recognition of the 2024 H. Peter Burg Economic Development Leadership Award honoree, Richard J. Kramer, recently retired Chairman, President and CEO of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.  Created in 2004, in memory of H. Peter Burg by the Chamber’s Executive Committee, this award recognizes a business leader who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to economic and community development in the Greater Akron region.

“Running a global company, a CEO may be anyplace in the world on a given day – but throughout his tenure at Goodyear, Rich’s personal commitment to Greater Akron and the commitment he instills in every Goodyear leader have made a lasting impact on our region,” said Millard. “Spending time with Rich never fails to provide an interesting blend of world class innovative thinking and passion for creating exciting possibilities for both Goodyear and the region.”

View photos from the event here.

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