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Year-End Thoughts

Sunday, December 22, 2019 by Steve Millard, President & CEO

As we get to the last couple weeks of the year, while many offices are shutting down or emptying out, I am confident that most of you that own businesses or lead organizations will use the next couple weeks to catch up on some things; assessing the year behind and the year ahead; and, hopefully, unplug “a little” to think. 

Me, too.  Here are a few things I am glad we did in 2019:
  • Launched several new areas of work to drive the success of Greater Akron in strong partnership with core partners like the City of Akron and Summit County, the GAR Foundation, TeamNEO, the Akron Community Foundation, Bounce, the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, ConxusNEO, MAGNET and many others. The effective functioning of the broader ecosystem and these relationships help us leverage more resources to support you.  
  • Initiated new, proactive business calling efforts with several big wins on development, investment and job growth. Focusing both on emerging growing companies in the region and some of our largest employers will fuel more regional investment.  
  • Built new support for small- and middle-market business like our MEWA health benefit and our cyber security platform as well as re-imagining the way we support the unique and specific needs of business owners. These companies have great potential to drive the growth of our region.  
  • Formalized an alignment with The Women’s Network to drive development and support for women building their careers, their teams and their businesses. Advancing female leaders and owners will exponentially accelerate our success.
  • Conducted a deep dive with our Elevate Greater Akron Partners on inclusion in Greater Akron and held our first Inclusion Summit where we began a conversation and a commitment to action on equity and inclusion. Unlocking the talent and growth of people and firms in our minority community has tremendous opportunity for the region.
  • Traveled with forty business and community leaders to Grand Rapids on our InterCity Leadership Visit to understand their efforts and success on inclusion, downtown development, driving the arts as an economic asset and creating a sense of place. Their ideas, challenges and successes will help inform the work we have ahead.
  • Increased our advocacy efforts on a number of legislative initiatives in support of business and community interests. Actively engaged in Ohio’s bi-ennial budget process, including support for key community capital projects, on behalf of our business and community stakeholders. Greater Akron’s priorities need attention and support from Columbus and DC.
  • Advanced collaboration with Stark County and Canton to better recognize the strength of the Akron-Canton Metroplex. We need to take advantage of our combined assets to ensure the region is seen as an economic driver and a unique destination for people and businesses.
  • Relocated the Chamber’s office space, better connecting us to the community and creating a more effective place for our members and key stakeholders to work collaboratively on key issues affecting their organizations and our community. 
Looking to 2020, we’ve got lots of work to do.  In a lot of ways, it is building on the new foundation of focus and activity that we established at the start of 2019.  A few of the big items that are occupying my “head space” include:
  • Connecting employers and jobseekers. Tight unemployment with lots of skilled folks still looking for work in this region perplexes me. We’ve got to build a stronger capacity to connect your jobs to those who want and need them.  And—we need to do better helping folks deal with transportation, child care and other barriers to getting and keeping jobs.
  • More work and support for small- and middle-market businesses. These companies are driving employment growth and jobs at a higher rate and have more issues to tackle that will unlock even more growth. 
  • Continued focused on the economic potential of improving economic inclusion for minority, women and small local companies. We will work to increase the understanding of disparities and put more tools in the hands of our companies to reap the economic success that reducing economic exclusion can provide.
  • Better targeted outreach and support for companies that can anchor our economic success. Tell their stories to increase access to support; reduce the barriers to making bigger investments in Greater Akron; and, reinforce the region as a place they continue to call home.
  • Increase the engagement of our leaders and owners in the work of the organization. This work happens on your behalf; and your insight, issues and ideas are critical to our success. There are a number of people in most of your organizations that can share that leadership responsibility. We’d like to create more opportunities for more of you and your leaders to be actively involved. In my first year, we’ve had less opportunities to get as many of you involved as we’d like. That will shift moving ahead; and if you are interested in getting involved, let me know.
Enjoy a little time to recharge over the next couple of weeks.  Sometimes that time away clears the details enough to open up some bigger-picture opportunities.  And, we’ll be doing more to connect in 2020 around issues and ideas important to you.  GAC’s Annual Meeting is Wednesday, March 18th. We will honor long-time Greater Akron business leader and philanthropist, Roger Read with the H. Peter Burg Economic Development Leadership Award.  And, we’ll have a number of other ideas and initiatives to share.  
Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2019 by Steve Millard, President & CEO | with 20 comments

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