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Robert DeJournett Named Vice President of Opportunity and Inclusion for the Greater Akron Chamber

5/3/2019
DeJournett Will Spearhead Economic Inclusion Strategy and Initiatives

Greater Akron—The Greater Akron Chamber is pleased to announce that Robert DeJournett will be joining the leadership team of the Chamber as its Vice President, Opportunity and Inclusion.  DeJournett brings to the position twenty-four years of experience in diversity and inclusion, a history of committed civic leadership engagement and deep ties within the Akron community.

This Vice President, Opportunity and Inclusion role is a direct byproduct of the work of Elevate Greater Akron and the partnership of the City of Akron, Summit County, the GAR Foundation and the Greater Akron Chamber. The Elevate Greater Akron Economic Development Strategy is the result of about a year of work among these partners focused on answering questions about our economy and the best ways to drive opportunity for the region. In this new position, DeJournett will spearhead the work of Elevate Greater Akron specifically as it relates to strategies for economic inclusion and opportunity.  For the Chamber, he will focus on driving a focus within the business community on economic inclusion.    

“Our work on the Elevate Greater Akron strategy made clear what many in the community already knew to be true—there is a significant gap in wages and employment between African-Americans and the majority population in our local economy,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said.  “This is an unacceptable, generational disparity that has impacted our entire community for decades, and Robert is uniquely qualified to help us turn the tide.  The City has made a long-term commitment to financially support Robert and the Chamber in achieving our goals around expanding economic opportunity for all people.”

DeJournett currently serves as the System Director of Community Relations and Diversity for Summa Health—the region’s largest employer and a key supporter and investor in the work of the Chamber and the region’s economic development ecosystem.  “Robert has been a key leader on our work at Summa in both inclusion and community outreach, and his leadership has made a significant difference here.  While it is difficult to lose someone who has done so much for more than thirty years, his passion to lead on this issue is clearly a calling for him,” said Cliff Deveny, President and CEO of Summa Health. 

In addition to his long tenure with Summa, DeJournett has been an active community leader within both the business and faith communities, also serving as Pastor of St. Ashworth Temple Church of God In Christ.  DeJournett also serves as the Board President of Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority, chair of the Leadership Akron Alumni Association and chair of the Board of the Akron American Heart Association. 

“Robert’s active engagement in the work of this community across its many different sectors provides a perspective and connectivity that will benefit the work of Elevate Greater Akron and the Chamber,” said Christine Mayer, President of the GAR Foundation. “It will take an active collaboration of many stakeholders to move the needle in the region on economic inclusion.”

DeJournett will start in the role in mid-June to facilitate a smooth transition from his current work.  “I know Robert will hit the ground running in his new role.  Expectations are high as we drive this work, but we also need to be realistic about the long-term commitment it will take to position Greater Akron as one of the country’s most inclusive communities,” said Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro.

DeJournett sees this opportunity as a chance to capitalize on a career of experiences working to improve the success of the region.  "I am excited to be an integral part of the ongoing work being done throughout the community around being intentional in identifying and implementing inclusive strategies to ensure our community is a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” said DeJournett.  "This role will allow for me to continue some of the work I have been doing at Summa, but with an increase in scope and on a broader scale."
Marc Merklin, Chair of the Greater Akron Chamber and Managing Partner, Brouse McDowell, noted “Opportunity and inclusion is a critical component of our work moving forward at both the Chamber and within the overall economic development strategy for the community.  Creating this role is just the first step to driving engagement by the community’s business leadership who have recently committed to an explicit and intentional focus of the Board on inclusion as a part of the Chamber’s work.”

“I am excited to have Robert stepping into this role on our team to lead on what is some of the most important new work at the Chamber to support the growth and success of minority-owned companies and to drive a focus on elevating the existing people and talent in the neighborhoods and communities of Greater Akron that our employers need to be successful,” said Steve Millard, President and CEO of the Chamber. 

The Elevate Greater Akron Economic Development Strategy is the product of a unique partnership among the City of Akron, County of Summit, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, and GAR Foundation—that came together in 2017 to create a transformative, high functioning and collaborative economic development system for the region, starting with a focus on the City of Akron. The group was driven by the realization that the region lacked the organization and capacity needed to effectively address the region’s economic challenges.  As a result of the planning process, each entity recognizes the need to change the way it operates both as an individual organization and as part of a new, highly integrated team.   

The Greater Akron Chamber’s mission is to drive economic growth and prosperity for Greater Akron by supporting the success of the business community and acting as a convener of stakeholders on key issues facing the region.  The Chamber is serving as a key connecting point and project manager in support of the Elevate Greater Akron initiatives and its partners.  More information about its work and evolving direction can be found here.
 
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