January 23, 2024

Throughout 2023, the Greater Akron Chamber (GAC) and its partners were hard at work advocating for the needs of the business community. We spent dozens of hours meeting with elected officials and key decision makers in Northeast Ohio, Columbus, and D.C. while working to advance our public policy agenda and realize new investments for strategic initiatives.

While many of these activities are still ongoing, we’re thrilled to have seen tangible progress on our priorities through the creation of the Ohio Innovation Hub Program, the redesignation of rubber as a strategic material, over $500,000 in our four Industry Sector Partnerships, and much more!

We would also like to mention the creation of the Akron-Canton Advocacy Alliance - a collaboration of the Greater Akron Chamber and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The ACAA represents the needs of our collective 4,500 members and will engage with elected officials and policymakers for the benefit of jobs, investment, and growth for the Akron-Canton region. More information on this exciting initiative will be released in the coming weeks.

Below are highlights from an eventful 2023…

John Rizzo

Vice President, Akron-Canton Advocacy Alliance

Greater Akron's Innovation and Tech Hub Efforts

Over the last few years, the Polymer Industry Cluster, powered by the Greater Akron Chamber, has doubled down on its mission of bolstering our region’s legacy in polymers and advanced materials, making way for a new future in functional and sustainable advanced polymer materials. Much of that work culminated in 2023.

  • July 2023: The Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 33 - the state operating budget. Within it, they included $125 million for Innovation Hubs in small and mid-sized cities across Ohio. The GAC hosted Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik on multiple occasions to discuss this opportunity for Greater Akron.
  • October 2023: Out of 400 total applicants, Greater Akron was one of 31 to receive a Tech Hub Designation for Sustainable Polymers and one of 29 to also receive the $400,00 Strategic Development Grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA). Nationally, we were only one of eleven to receive both.

The Strategic Development Grant advantageously positions the region for a potential Phase 2 grant award of between $40-$75 million. With this funding, we envision on completing a myriad of R&D, commercialization, and workforce development projects that leverage polymer and plastic asset development in ways that directly serve four key industries, including healthcare, semiconductors/tech, EVs/mobility, and sustainability.

City of Akron Mayoral Race & APS Board Race

2023 marked an election year in Akron, and a big one at that. Incumbent Democratic mayor Dan Horrigan chose not to seek re-election to a third term in office; that left a field of seven Democratic candidates after the sole Republican candidate was disqualified. As the region's voice of business, our focus during this race was to highlight and promote issues that stand to support the growth and success of the city, ensuring that Greater Akron is a place where businesses and their employees can grow and thrive.

In the months leading up to the Primary Election, we held roundtable discussions with the mayoral candidates in our Countdown to 2023 Series.

In November 2023, Mayor Shammas Malik was elected as the 63rd mayor of Akron.

Mayor Malik will have a critical role in setting the tone and the trajectory for success through addressing a number of important issues for the long-term health and viability of our city. In his campaign, Malik outlined several initiatives and activities that are important to our success. The Chamber stands ready to work with him on both the upcoming transition and the years of work that follow for the Malik Administration.

Watch Mayor Malik's swear-in speech here

Similarly, we placed a large focus on Akron Public School’s Board Race. As the largest driver of K-12 education in Greater Akron, Akron Public Schools is vitally important to our broader workforce development ecosystem and economy. It is imperative that our students not only receive a quality education but understand and prepare for the opportunities that await them after graduation.

Eight candidates vied for three open seats in November – former State Rep. Barbara Sykes, city employee Summer L. Hall and incumbent Rene Molenaur were ultimately elected. Leading up to the election, GAC and United Way of Summit and Medina talked with each of the candidates to better understand their motivations, priorities, and perspectives as it relates to the continued growth and success of our region’s largest K-12 institution.

Community Projects Task Force

In December, the Chamber once again assembled its Community Projects Task Force to gather, review and prioritize regional projects that are seeking funds from the 2025-2026 fiscal year state capital budget and One-Time Strategic Community Investments Fund. To help ensure our region gets its fair share of state funding for priority projects, the Chamber convened a working group of key stakeholders, including leaders from within business, economic development, nonprofit, and community organizations to solicit, review, and prioritize regional projects. Following the due diligence of these leaders, we provided funding recommendations for eligible projects to state legislators, the DeWine Administration and relevant state agencies.

This year, we had 24 different organizations present 31 project requests seeking over $152M in total funding. In the end, we recommended the support of 12 projects seeking $35,211,918 in total funding. Our list of project recommendations included those we feel align with regional economic development strategies and, as such, have our full support and endorsement.

State Issue #1 Rejected

State Issue #1 was hotly contested last year for Ohioans. Officially titled “ELEVATING THE STANDARDS TO QUALIFY FOR AN INITIATED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND TO PASS A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,” the issue would have raised the voting threshold for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments to 60% (currently a simple majority), required petitioners to gather signatures from at least 5% of voters in all 88 counties (currently only 44 counties), and eliminated the (10-day) cure period currently in place for petitioners who fail to satisfy the state’s filing requirements. 

Ohioans ultimately rejected State Issue 1 at the ballot box. And while the Greater Akron Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee voted to formally take no position in support or opposition, we provided our members with educational resources to actively promote related information leading up to the election, and hosted an information session with proponents and opponents of State Issue #1. 

Candidates Conference and Leadership Reception

In late October, GAC hosted the 2023 Candidates Conference & Leadership Reception featuring a panel discussion with the Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate.

Moderated by the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, candidates Matt Dolan, Frank LaRose, and Bernie Moreno were given the opportunity to share their perspectives on key issues facing the business community. The forum focused on taxes, regulation, immigration, budget deficits and other issues. The GAC is planning a similar event for the Democratic candidate in the near future.

2024 presents us with several unique opportunities to significantly impact our regional business community and economy. Across the Akron-Canton region, our partners are working to secure over $130mm in state and federal funding through the Ohio Innovation Hub Program and U.S. EDA’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program and Recompete Pilot Program.

In addition to that, the State Capital Budget process will unfold and we will spend a good amount of time advocating for local priority projects. We plan to hit the ground running in 2024 and look forward to engaging with our partners to update our public policy priorities and establish broader advocacy partnerships through the creation of the Akron-Canton Advocacy Alliance (more to come on that).

THANK YOU for your continued support of our great region!

For more information, contact John Rizzo, Vice President, Akron-Canton Advocacy Alliance, at jrizzo@greaterakronchamber.org and visit our Advocacy Center.


Facebook  Instagram  LinkedIn  YouTube