The Slovenia Times

Show the Success



For more than 100 years, Akron was the rubber and tyre capital of the world and it is now a centre of research and advanced manufacturing, polymer engineering and biomedical R&D. It is all about taking advantage of the strengths in place but first you need to change the people's mindset, says Donald L. Plusquellic, Mayor of Akron.

How did Akron go from being the rubber and tyre capital to becoming a biomedical centre?

It is about taking advantage of the strengths that we have. Our strength initially was polymer, the plastic industry that grew out of the dying rubber industry. The research and development that took place in Akron in developing new products, improved structure, improved characteristics of material and products from something other than raw rubber. That research and development led to many areas of expertise, one of which is biomedical. So, our job was to take the strength that we had coming out of the research and development of the rubber companies and market that to the rest of the world.

How long did it take you to change the mindset of people in Akron and were there any particular things that you did to do that?

One thing is that you need some victories, you need some success stories that you can talk about to show people and say "look, if we were as bad as you thought, we wouldn't have attracted this company or we wouldn't be able to do this project". Those are important things and sometimes you have to make an extra effort to identify those successes and talk about them so that people can say "oh, I didn't realise that". There is much of this world that we go through each day and there are changes that some of us see, improvements, success stories but we don't talk about it because we don't think it's important.

I think there are points in time where you have to go the extra mile, do the extra effort to show people the success. I think the second thing, which is more difficult but when you can do it and if you can do it, is to measure your success. By that I mean, in income tax growth which we depend upon in our city, or investment dollars. Last year we did a study that showed for every dollar spent on travelling just within the city boundaries, we get USD 3,984 invested in equipment or new building in Akron. You need to measure and explain it (the success) in dollars or in terms that people understand.

When I became mayor in 1990 there were 15,000 people working in the city centre and there are now 31,000 people working there. If you live in Akron, especially if you are a retired person and you're not working and you're not paying income tax, you are dependent on other people working there and helping to pay those taxes so you get the services you need. When we started to identify that and talk about it in real terms, it really changed the mindset of people. Mayors in the United States were left to fend for themselves as cities are not viewed as important. When we started talking about investing in downtowns again, we would always start talking about why the downtown is important. When we started saying that downtown is a place of employment and it pays taxes for services that you depend on, people understood that. My point is, if you can measure something, measure it and get that information out to show the success.

Businesses here like to blame politicians for not doing something to boost economy. Possibly businesses use politicians as an excuse for not doing enough. Can you relate to that?

Absolutely. We have it in our country and we have it in our community. What I was trying to suggest is that public servants, the politicians, the elected officials need to call the bluff of business people. If you (a business person) are so smart and know so much, why don't you come in and serve as the chairperson to tell us how we can use technology to improve our systems. Why don't you come in and study our building requirements and see if there are changes we need to make. Why don't you come in and advise us how we can change the police department and make it more efficient and effective. When we use your expertise we will be better. When businesses are in a community, they have already made the investment, they should be as concerned about their investment and making the rest of the community successful and by bringing their expertise, coming on and serving on a commission to make the community better by making recommendations, that to me is a sincere person who's making an objective judgement. It's the easiest thing in the world to just sit back and complain.


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