Guest Post: Growth and opportunity in Akron

Dina Younis \
March 02, 2015
By: Chris Thompson
When the Fund for Our Economic Future says it’s committed to Growth & Opportunity what does that mean for greater Akron? If we’re successful in our quest, it means more people participating in and benefiting from our region’s economic growth.
Our Fund, which is made up of nearly 50 members from across Northeast Ohio, including the GAR Foundation and several others in Summit County, is dedicated to advancing economic growth and equitable access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio. Our members use their dollars and leadership to collectively advance strategies that (1) create good jobs, (2) prepare people for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and (3) promote better access to those jobs.
In greater Akron, our work is focused in three areas specifically:
Leveraging Regional Economic Strategies
Regional business development organizations, supported by the Fund, work with local partners in Akron and Summit County to maximize the outcomes generated by their respective economic strategies. The Fund helps create connections between regional organizations and Akron area efforts, evaluating outcomes generated by these organizations, which support:
High-Growth Ventures: JumpStart provides capital, mentorship and technical resources to high-growth potential companies. It works in partnership with Akron-based organizations that also support such companies, including the Akron Global Business Accelerator and the Akron Urban League.
Manufacturing Innovation: Small to mid-sized manufacturers in Summit County have access to product and process innovation services provided through the PRISM program offered by MAGNET, a regional organization that supports the manufacturing industry. Partners in the program include the University of Akron and the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce.
Bioscience Industry Growth: BioEnterprise partners with the Austin BioInnovation Institute of Akron and others to assist early-stage bioscience companies in Summit County to grow. BioEnterprise, which has helped startups in the region for more than a decade, is also developing strategies to help more established companies grow.
Developing a Strong Talent Development System
The Fund supports an effort, convened by Summit County Executive Russ Pry, to establish a demand-driven talent development system that meets the skill needs of a large cross-section of residents and businesses in Greater Akron. The goal of this work is to consistently deliver the right people with the right skills, to the right place, at the right time. A pilot program to introduce Skills-based Hiring to Summit County companies is an important component of the project. This approach has been shown to increase pathways to employment based upon competencies, expand the number of qualified candidates in the job pool, and improve retention rates. Other recommendations to strengthen the existing talent development system will be issued in the first quarter of 2015.
Promoting Akron’s Entrepreneurial Culture
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Fund members from Greater Akron want to catalyze a vibrant entrepreneurial business culture within the city. Supporting the development of additional capacity to assist entrepreneurs across the entire spectrum of the business community and helping to strengthen and better connect existing programs are priorities. Together with the Knight Foundation, the Fund will help a team of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations deploy new programs and resources to increase the number of businesses starting up in Akron, particularly in downtown and targeted neighborhoods.
In the months ahead, I hope to share stories of progress within each of these three areas with you via the GAR blog.
Chris Thompson, director of regional engagement at the Fund for our Economic Future helps Fund members and other civic leaders to collaborate in ways that strengthen job creation, job preparation and job access efforts. Click here to learn more about Chris. 

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