What are you most proud of doing or being part of in 2017?
While we had many successes in 2017, I am most proud of our collaborative efforts to create job opportunities and help local businesses grow. In 2017, we partnered with the Development Finance Authority of Summit County on the “Down Payment on Jobs” initiative to provide an additional $14 million in lending capacity for local construction projects that will help businesses expand and locate in Summit County. We have also partnered with the City of Akron, the Greater Akron Chamber, the Summit County Land Bank, FirstEnergy and APV Engineered Coatings to plan the Firestone Business Park, putting about 18 acres of former industrial land back into use in the heart of the County. We should see infrastructure construction beginning in 2018 and the business park opening for businesses in early 2019. Lastly, we have begun collaborating with several communities, starting with Barberton and Coventry, to expand the Akron Energy Special Improvement District to the balance of the County. This new District will allow businesses to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings that will reduce their costs and benefit the environment.
How are you building on that in 2018?
We will continue to build upon our partnerships to further promote new opportunities in Summit County to get the men and women of Summit back to work, bolster our economy, and work to not only attract business to our County, but to also create an environment that fosters growth, success, and sustainability. The County’s economic development team has shifted its focus to meeting with local small and medium-sized businesses to identify their needs and to begin addressing their needs. To do so, we will continue to bring partners and resources to the table, and to create new programs that address those businesses’ needs.
What else are you excited about doing in 2018?
The opiate epidemic has hit our nation hard and its hit Summit County hard. We are dealing with a highly destructive problem that has caused tremendous pain, and devastation. I look forward to taking a proactive approach in the fight against the opiate epidemic, including improving access to treatment, helping the families impacted by the epidemic, and holding the manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the death of so many. It is my hope that by taking a proactive, multi-faceted and collaborative approach with our community partners, we will begin to turn the tide on this terrible epidemic.
What are some important things for Akron to tackle or address in 2018?
Job growth and retention is incredibly important. We need to continue creating, attracting, and keeping jobs for those who live in and around Akron. We also need to create an environment in downtown Akron and our neighborhoods that appeals to, attracts, and retains local talent. Lastly, we need to address some of our socioeconomic issues such as the opiate epidemic, infant mortality, and lack of economic opportunity and inclusion for many in our community.
Who do you know that deserved a shout-out for their work in 2017?
I’d like to recognize and thank the women who bravely came forward last year to shed light on the issues of sexual harassment, abuse, and inequality, and the men who have supported them and embraced important change. I believe their courage and their voices will help to start changing the culture that contributes to these issues.
(Photos courtesy of County of Summit Executive Ilene Shapiro Facebook page)