A Restoring Prosperity Case Study: Akron Ohio

Part of the larger Northeast Ohio regional economy, the Akron metropolitan area is composed of two counties (Summit and Portage) with a population of just over 700,000, and is surrounded by three other metropolitan areas. Akron is located approximately 40 miles south of Cleveland, 50 miles west of Youngstown, and 23 miles north of Canton. The Cleveland metro area is a five-county region with a population of 2.1 million. The Youngstown metro area includes three counties, extending into Pennsylvania, and has a population of 587,000. Canton is part of a two-county metropolitan area with a population of 410,000.

The adjacency of the Akron and Cleveland Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) is an important factor in the economic performance of the Akron region. The interdependence of economies of the two MSAs is evidenced by the strong economic growth of the northern part of Summit County adjacent to the core county of the Cleveland metropolitan area. This part of Summit County beyond the city of Akron provides available land, access to the labor pools of the two metropolitan areas, and proximity to the region’s extensive transportation network.

Although affected by economic activity in the larger region, the fate and future of Akron and its wider region are not solely determined by events in these adjacent areas. While sharing broad economic trends with its neighbors, the Akron metro area has been impacted by a different set of events and has shown different patterns of growth from other areas in Northeast Ohio.

This study provides an in-depth look at Akron’s economy over the past century. It begins by tracing the industrial history of the Akron region, describing the growth of the rubber industry from the late 1800s through much of following century, to its precipitous decline beginning in the 1970s. It then discusses how the “bottoming out” of this dominant industry gave rise to the industrial restructuring of the area. The paper explores the nature of this restructuring, and the steps and activities the city’s business, civic, and government leaders have undertaken to help spur its recovery and redevelopment. In doing so, it provides a series of lessons to other older industrial regions working to find their own economic niche in a changing global economy. 

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