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Akron Mayor Looks To Improve Economy From Ground Up

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan touted numerous improvements and goals in his State of the City Address today(Wednesday) and it appears Akron and Cleveland share some common ambitions.

Voters approved recent income tax hikes in each city and both have been cranking up services.  Horrigan notes two new fire stations are being built and last year saw a 174% increase in roads repaved, and 1,000 new housing units.

He says the city 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 state of Ohio is expected to give Akron its Ocasek building to house some courtroom space.  The present Stubbs Justice Center would likely be razed.

Downtown is seeing some massive investment in roads and buildings.

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

To keep that momentum going, Horrigan has proposed establishing a downtown Community Development Corporation, something more commonly seen in residential neighborhoods.

He also 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 6 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.  Local leaders bear the front line burden in moving the ball forward.” 

And like Cleveland, the catch phrase going around is “economic equity” – 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 8 months ago and has been popular.

“Since its opening,” says Horrigan, “the FEC has seen almost 400 clients across more than 800 financial counseling sessions. In addition to complimentary services such as tax preparation and banking education we are providing free comprehensive financial services.”

The mayor says this new service “will be a pivotal tool” in the way they combat poverty.

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