Elevate Greater Akron 2.0

Christine Mayer \
February 17, 2021

In recent years, GAR has invested time and resources in the development of the Elevate Greater Akron economic development plan with the City of Akron, Summit County and the Greater Akron Chamber. From time to time, I’ll get the question, “Why does a charitable foundation care about economic development?” Admittedly, it is not a topic traditionally associated with philanthropy. Yet, the answer is simple. Our community’s economic prosperity is inextricably linked to all of the facets of quality of life that we care about at GAR. An economy that works for everyone in our community leads to strong schools, robust career opportunities, a healthy tax base, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and an effective net of needed community services. In short, a healthy economy points to a healthy Akron. We can’t have the latter without the former.

The Elevate Greater Akron (“EGA”) plan goes a step beyond “a healthy economy.” As a public-private partnership that brings multiple players to a shared planning and implementation table, EGA is laser- focused on ensuring that our economy works for everyone. We have seen cautionary tales coming out of other communities – places where unplanned growth was like a short-lived sugar high, followed by the inevitable crash of deep civic divides, unintended consequences, and dead-end jobs that cannot sustain a family.

We know in our own story that the legacy of systemic racism has resulted in deep economic inequities across racial lines. EGA is built to balance the desire for quick wins with the resolve to plan for sustained, widespread, accessible prosperity.

The EGA partners have recently approved EGA 2.0, a go-forward strategy that builds on successes to date and adjusts for Covid realities. EGA 2.0 is built on five strategies:

  • Opportunity Akron – ensuring that Akron’s Black community is positioned to engage in and share in the benefit of regional growth and prosperity
  • New Business Retention and Expansion – supporting the recovery and growth of businesses through targeted outreach and the resources businesses need now
  • Spark Akron – positioning Greater Akron as an entrepreneurial hub by strengthening existing resources for startups, filling gaps, and ensuring that entrepreneurs have the resources they need to thrive
  • Refocus on Downtown Akron – prioritizing downtown revitalization and development to support the growth of a vibrant business and residential community
  • LEAD Greater Akron – providing support, visibility, and accountability for the activities and initiatives of Elevate Greater Akron We are bullish on Akron and on the Elevate Greater Akron partnership as a tool for making our community better, stronger, and more equitable. Learn more at www.elevategreaterakron.org.