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The First Step to Revitalization

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Graduate Intern This week, GOPC released a study called the62.4 Reporton urban health and competitiveness in Akron. The report, whose title refers to the city’s square mileage, realistically acknowledges that the city is facing challenges, but also finds that Akron is in a strong position to deal with them. GOPC’s work on small- and medium-sized legacy cities nationwide has found that for many cities, the first step of recovery and revitalization is understanding and accepting their current situation. This may have been more challenging for Akron, because unlike many of its peers, it has not had a clear moment of hitting “rock bottom” when a major economic sector completely left town. Instead, change in Akron has been slower, with a steady stream of residents and businesses leaving the central city for the suburbs and a more gradual shift from a manufacturing-based to service-based economy. Without a major crisis, the alarm bells never rang, even though conditions in the city were declining.

Downtown overhead

Akron, Ohio

Fortunately, many stakeholders in Akron are willing to take a hard look at where Akron is now to plan for where the city can be. Kyle Kutuchief, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation - which grew out of Akron and funded the study, compares the report to diagnostic testing required when going to the doctor. Once the city knows what is wrong, it can start making a plan for getting better.

Akronites are excited about making that plan. GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman and Graduate Intern Torey Hollingsworth travelled to Akron this week to present the report’s findings. At meetings with stakeholders, they had productive conversations about what the city could do to reposition itself as a vibrant, competitive city where people want to live and work. Despite the sobering data, there was clear energy about Akron’s future and resolve to do what it takes to get the city there. Now that the city has taken the tough first step of finding out what needs to change, Akron is even better positioned for recovery. 

Go here to read the report!