Akron: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

From its former honor as the "Rubber Capital of the World," Akron has moved forward into the world of liquid crystal and polymer research, development, and technology. More than 400 companies in the area are at work on one aspect or another of polymers, creating what is now referred to as "The Polymer Valley." The University of Akron supports the industry with both a College of Polymer Engineering and a specialized laboratory and research facility accessible by Akron area business partners.

As a transportation hub between the east coast of the U.S. and parts west, Akron has built an industry around motor vehicle production, movement of freight, and aeronautics. In 2003 the local branch of Lockheed-Martin was awarded a $2 million Department of Defense contract to develop a new high altitude airship capable of carrying a variety of pay-loads. Local researchers in the aeronautics field have been studying "lighter than air" technology for aircraft since the days of the Goodyear Blimp being docked in Akron.

Items and goods produced: plastic products, polymers, chemicals, metals, motor vehicles and related equipment, biomedical products, aeronautical instruments, and controls

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

Through Tax Increment Financing, the City of Akron offers businesses the opportunity to apply real property taxes to a public infrastructure improvement that will directly benefit the business. In addition, businesses that locate or expand into an Akron Enterprise Zone are eligible for a tax abatement program that allows for up to 100 percent of tangible personal property taxes to be in abatement for up to 10 years.

State programs

The State of Ohio encourages new businesses, expansion of existing businesses, export of Ohio-produced goods, and flexibility of production via a variety of incentive programs. The Machinery and Equipment Tax Credit is based on the amount of a company's investment in machinery purchase or retooling in an Ohio county over the three years preceding claim of the tax credit and is divided evenly over seven years. A Research and Development Tax Credit is available for machinery and equipment purchased for pure and directed research activities. Those manufacturers who get their goods into international circulation may be able to capitalize on the Export Tax Credit, which is based on the average increase in export sales over the two years prior to the tax credit claim. The Brownfields Tax Credit provides a break for private sector businesses that rehabilitate and reuse properties once considered environmentally contaminated.

A refundable Job Creation Tax Credit is available to businesses that locate or expand in Ohio; the tax credit may be as much as 75 percent for up to 10 years. The Working Opportunity and Welfare to Work tax credit programs encourage employers to hire individuals from seven targeted groups of potential employees, including food stamp recipients, vocational rehab referrals from the Department of Veteran Affairs, Supplemental Security Income recipients, participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and 18-24 year olds. Employers may also receive tax breaks to offset costs of training current employees via the Ohio Training Tax Credit Program.

Job training programs

The state of Ohio has created the Enterprise Ohio Network of public community colleges and universities that work with businesses and organizations to provide continuing education for employees. The Ohio Investment in Training Program offers reduced-cost training and materials to new or expanding businesses, with an emphasis on employment sectors in which training costs are comparatively high.

Summit County's Employment Resource Center assists employers with recruitment and skills testing for prospective employees, customizes on-the-job training for new or reallocated workers, and can advise employers and employees during layoff situations.

Development Projects

In an effort to counter the outflow of businesses and residents to malls and suburbs, downtown Akron became a Special Improvement District in the mid-1990s. This designation as a private nonprofit entity has allowed the city to enhance parking and transit services, marketing of the downtown area, business recruitment and retention, and the physical presentation and security of the area. The restoration project has included adaptive reuse of large, unoccupied businesses in the district; examples include the Roetzel & Andress Office Center (bringing 85,000 square feet of retail space and 100,000 square feet of office space to the downtown area) and Advanced Elastomer Systems (now located in buildings 40 and 41 of the B.F. Goodrich complex and continuing the trend of innovation in a most appropriate setting).

The City of Akron has a number of business and industrial parks under development or open for new enterprises. The Ascot Business Park is being cultivated for light industrial and manufacturing businesses, with 85 of 228 total acres complete in 2005. Current tenants include companies that produce plastics, chemicals, aluminum, glass, and graphic art rubber products. The Airport Development Area encourages location of businesses that fit within the existing aviation, commercial, and industrial themes. Current tenants include a bottling company, flight schools, and plastic producers. The University Technology Park is located near the University of Akron Polymer Science Center and is dedicated to industrial research and technology businesses specializing in polymers. Nine acres are available for development.

New businesses established in the Akron area include the headquarters of both Newell Rubbermaid and Neighborhood Development Corporation, L'Oreal Cosmetics, Feature Foods, Lockheed-Martin, RJS Manufacturing, 24 Brown Street Corporation, Spectrum Brands, and Includis Manufacturing Software.

In 2005 the Akron-Canton Airport completed a $7 million renovation of its terminal building, with improvements made to the food court, baggage claim wing, entrances, parking lots and Internet access at the airport. Runway improvements are anticipated in the near future.

Commercial Shipping

Akron businesses have a variety of choices when it comes to shipping, considering the city's proximity to major waterways, airports, roadways, and rail systems. The Akron Fulton Airport, located in the southeast corner of the municipality, was home to the original Goodyear Airdock and site of the first lighter-than-air craft. The airport has four paved runways and can accommodate all types of private, single- and multi-engine aircraft. The Akron-Canton Airport offers a range of commercial flight and cargo shipping options. Carriers include AirTran, Delta, Frontier, Northwest, United and US Airways Express. Further air cargo options are available up the road 40 miles in Cleveland, where Cleveland Hopkins International Airport hosts a number of carriers that include UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service.

A multitude of interstate, U.S. and state highways intersect in Akron, providing ready access to and from all points in the country. Interstates 71, 76 and 77 all pass through the city; bypasses have been created to encourage smooth traffic flow. Local trucking and transport firm Roadway Express, a subsidiary of Yellow Roadway Corporation, leads the ground transport field with a network of shipping options extending to Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and across the globe. Akron's industrial history has made the city a magnet for many other companies that specialize in handling and transport of a range of freight. Several rail systems pass through Akron as well, including CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads.

The Great Lakes Seaway from the Port of Cleveland and the St. Lawrence Seaway link the Akron area to the Atlantic Ocean, providing access to Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and Asia.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Developments in the early 2000s portend that the manufacturing sector is likely to see more layoffs and lost jobs in the future. The manufacture of durables may rebound somewhat, but the employment sectors expected to demonstrate significant growth are projected to be health care and social assistance, science and technology professions, administration and support services, leisure and hospitality, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, construction, retail trade, services, and recreation, arts and entertainment. Adaptation and retraining will be critical for workers to make the shift from production to a more service oriented job market.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Cleveland-Akron metropolitan statistical area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 328,500

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 13,900

manufacturing: 49,300

trade, transportation and utilities: 65,700

information: 4,700

financial activities: 14,600

professional and business services: 43,600

educational and health services: 42,800

leisure and hospitality: 30,300

other services: 13,600

government: 50,000

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $15.25

Unemployment rate: 7.1% (February 2005)

Akron: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees (2005)
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. 4,700
Summa Health System 3,650

Akron: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees (2005)
Akron Public Schools 3,000
City of Akron 3,000
Akron General Medical Center 2,794
Fred Albrecht Grocery Co. 2,000
Children's Hospital Medical Center 1,543
Roadway Express 1,500
FirstMerit Corp. 1,475
FirstEnergy 1,400
Sterling Inc. 1,313

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Akron area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $205,000

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 91.5 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from .0743% to 7.5% maximum

State sales tax rate: 6%

Local income tax rate: 2.25% (Akron)

Local sales tax rate: 0.75% (Summit County)

Property tax rate: $89.270 per $1,000 assessed value

Economic Information: Greater Akron Chamber, One Cascade Plaza, 17th Floor, Akron, OH 44308-1192; telephone (303)376-5550; toll-free (800)621-8001.