Akron Mayor Looks To Improve Economy From Ground Up

Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan delivers State of the City address at the John S. Knight Center.
Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan delivers State of the City address at the John S. Knight Center. [Mark Urycki / ideastream]
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Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan touted numerous improvements and goals in his State of the City address Wednesday.

Voters recently approved an income tax hike and the city has cranked up services. Horrigan notes two new fire stations are being built, some 1,000 housing units are either under construction or in development, and last year saw a 174 percent increase in repaved roads.

He cited the 2018 Civic Engagement Survey which showed Americans trust their local leaders more than national politicians. 

“And we see data mirrored in our own state. More than six in 10 Ohioans say it is more important to act locally than nationally.”

That dovetails with the 2018 study by the city, Summit County, and the GAR Foundation that led to a development framework called “Elevate Akron.”

“All this means is they look to us to create real solutions for their very real challenges from poverty to lack of opportunity to job creation to basic safety and the quality of life,” Horrigan said. “Local leaders bear the front line burden in moving the ball forward.” 

Downtown transformation

Downtown is seeing some massive investment in roads and buildings.

“There is kind of a lot going on at once,” the mayor joked in an understatement.

To keep that momentum going, Horrigan has proposed establishing a downtown community development corporation.

He says the city is working to replace the Stubbs Justice Center which houses the city police department and municipal court.

The courts will be housed in the Ocasek building which the state of Ohio is expected to give Akron. Horrigan is hiring experts to determine potential new sites for the main police station although it may not be a single building.

“We’re just starting the process of saying, ‘What does the department look like? The physical structure - what do they need?’ Assess what we have and then say, ‘OK, should it all be in one place?’ Because we have some storage areas and task force stuff that is located offsite - maybe it stays that way, maybe it doesn’t.”  

The Stubbs Justice Center will likely be razed.

Economic Equity

Horrigan says he wants all of the city’s growth strategies to be viewed through what he calls an “equity lens” – making sure that no one is left behind as the city grows. 

It’s that idea that led to the city’s first financial empowerment center.  It opened in the Kenmore neighborhood eight months ago and, according to Horrigan, has offered financial counseling to almost 400 clients.

“In addition to complimentary services such as tax preparation and banking education we are providing free comprehensive financial services,” said Horrigan. “And with a holistic approach, I know this will be a pivotal tool in changing the way our community combats the cycle of poverty.”

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