The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce on Friday hosted a 2020 economic outlook forum.
JACKSON TWP. Every work day, about 40% of the people who live in Stark and Summit counties cross county lines as they travel to their jobs.
In addition to sharing employees, the two counties also share an airport and nearly 1 million residents.
And that, business leaders say, is where opportunity exists.
The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce on Friday hosted a 2020 economic outlook forum at the conference center at Kent State University at Stark.
Representatives of each chamber talked about their push for regional collaboration, and executives from the health care, logistics, financial and energy industries spoke about what they expect from the upcoming year.
Akron and Canton
Dennis Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton chamber, said Friday’s joint event was the result of conversations he and Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, shared about working together collectively and capitalizing on their combined population to brand the Akron-Canton region as a Metroplex.
The Akron Metropolitan Statistical Area — Summit and Portage counties — is projected to have a population of about 696,000 in 2020, according to state data. The Canton-Massillon MSA — Stark and Carroll counties — is expected to total about 397,000 people.
"In economic development, that really doesn’t move the dial," Saunier said. "(But) 1.2 million people is a big difference."
Saunier pointed to a piece of the Akron-Canton marketing effort, which was handed out to participants at Friday’s event.
At each table setting was a copy of a 128-page "Experience Akron-Canton" guide, which the two chambers designed and are distributing to people looking to relocate from across the country or across town.
The guide highlights attractions from both the Akron and Canton-Massillon MSAs, such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Goodyear Blimp and restaurants, educational institutions and neighborhoods.
In a letter at the opening, Saunier and Millard describe the area as one of America’s great places that has "a complex economy that leverages our rich industrial history with an emerging innovation economy that is positioning our region for success in the 21st century."
A copy of the guidebook is available online here.
Panel discussion and outlook
The other half of Friday’s program looked ahead at what’s coming for the region.
Steve Fritsch, vice president of engagement at business development organization Team NEO, asked a panel of regional leaders what keeps them up at night and also how their companies view the partnerships that are in place in both counties to improve overall economic competitiveness.
Here’s what they had to say:
• Lisa Aurilio, chief operating officer, Akron Children’s Hospital
On what keeps her up at night: Making sure there’s a strong talent pool and that the area is thriving so the hospital can attract talent.
On economic competitiveness: Akron Children’s has dozens of locations across 20 counties, so alignment helps them be more productive and meet the needs of the region.
• Jon Park, CEO and chairman, Westfield Bank
On what keeps him up at night: The low-interest rate environment is a challenge.
On economic competitiveness: "I think we have the best alignment, the best focus we’ve ever had."
• Doug Sibila, president/CEO, Peoples Services, Inc.
On what keeps him up at night: Talent, workforce development and retention.
On economic competitiveness: Peoples Services has its headquarters in Canton, but Sibila has employees who live in eight or nine different counties. "I think that kind of regional collaboration is long overdue," he said.
• Jackie Stewart, director of external affairs, Encino Energy
On what keeps her up at night: Gas prices, and people who want to put her out of a job: "We’re certainly concerned about the election next year," she said.
On economic competitiveness: Encino Energy wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Canton chamber, the Stark Economic Development Board and JobsOhio, which "wrapped their arms around Encino and said, ’We want you here. How can we help?’"
• Patrick Kelly, director of economic development, FirstEnergy
On what keeps him up at night: Safety, the slow-down of durable goods and what’s happening in manufacturing.
On economic competitiveness: FirstEnergy is tied to the communities it serves, so the company is pro-economic development, and Kelly said he applauds both cities for their efforts to grow.
Following the panel, Jacob Duritsky, vice president of strategy and research for Team NEO, gave a presentation about how Akron and Canton have recovered from the recession and what he expects in the next five years.
• The region has seen deep cuts in manufacturing and never fully recovered.
• Akron and Canton will need to focus on innovation moving forward.
• In the next five years, there aren’t major projected changes in the employment levels here, which goes back to dwindling and stagnant population levels.
• The talent pipeline remains a concern as populations decrease and residents age. "We have to deal with the people here who are disconnected from the workforce," Duritsky said.
Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @amatasREP