JACKSON TWP.  Kent State University at Stark was one of many locations participating in the THINKBIG day on Oct. 25. There were people from the community, Kent State, business and industry and media attending a conversation about community improvement and ways that Stark County can look to improve for future growth.

THINKBIG was a day of county-wide community conversations. The inaugural event was organized by the Stark Community Foundation and Strengthening Stark. It was designed to give residents a voice and bring people together to brainstorm solutions to community needs while celebrating the good things in the county.

Everyone who lives, works, learns and plays in Stark County was invited to attend one of the conversations located at different venues around the county. Kent State at Stark hosed the conversation on community improvement.

Kent State at Stark Coordinator of Public Relations and Media Communications Melissa Griffy Seeton was the moderator and she welcomed the group.

“This is one of the intimate conversations being held today all across the county, we’ll do a survey at the end to report all of your suggestions for change that become part of the final report,” she said.

Griffy Seeton started the conversation with a question, “What do you think are some of Stark County’s strengths?”

Some of the strengths the participants voiced included: education, low cost of living, location to other major cities, natural resources, Stark Parks, the libraries, the airport and easy travel. Most participants have all lived and worked in the county since the 1990s or were lifelong residents.

A few of the weaknesses discussed included attracting more business to increase employment opportunities. Most said that Summit County and areas like Green seem to be a bigger draw for business than Stark County and that many businesses in Stark have moved to the Green area.

Some mentioned the reluctance of many in Stark County to complete a four-year degree to increase the education level of residents, which is often of interest to employers looking to move into the area. Others mentioned the need to for employees to have better basic skills such as calling off work instead of just not showing up.

Some of the needs discussed for businesses who want to move or stay in the county were more educated and trained people to hire, more support to foster new businesses and more funding sources to attract new businesses.

One of the participants mentioned that the county needs to increase its population so that the tax base is better able to accommodate tax abatements that many communities offer new businesses.

The group went on to brainstorm about community improvement.

“At the end of the conversation, the group resolved that Stark County must promote Stark County. It’s time to THINK local, STAY local and GROW local,” Seeton wrote in an email.