Akron Known for its Diverse Companies, Industries
Akron may be known as the “Rubber Capital of the World” and proudly so, but it is also home to an array of diverse industries and a talented creative class.
Of course, the rubber industry is still important, as evidenced by Bridgestone Americas recently announcing a $100 million investment to construct a new technical center scheduled to open in late 2011. The center will develop innovations for tire industry. Additionally, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is building a 450,000-square-foot world headquarters in Akron as part of a $900 million development, which will include office, retail and residential space and a revitalization of the eastern Akron neighborhood that surrounds it.
“A little more than 15 percent of the 300,000 employees in the Akron region work in the rubber, plastics and overall manufacturing industry, so it obviously remains vital to our local economy,” says Rick Rebadow, executive vice president of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce. “But industry around here also includes health care, food service, science, construction, finance, real estate and transportation warehousing. It is always good to diversify, and the Greater Akron workforce certainly provides diversification.”
Hello, Call Centers
Along with robust polymer and liquid crystal technology clusters, Akron is also becoming a headquarters for health care, with 15 percent of the workforce employed in that sector. Companies range from medical device enterprises such as OrthoHelix, Philips Medical and Hitachi to biopharmaceutical firms such as spinal imaging firm SpineMatrix and Purell hand sanitizer pioneer GoJo. Meanwhile, call centers are also becoming more prevalent, with telemarketer InfoCision recently adding 200 hires to its 1,000 employees.
“Our founder, Gary Taylor, grew up right here in Akron and graduated from the University of Akron, so he is a homegrown entrepreneur,” says Steve Brubaker, InfoCision chief of staff. “Today, InfoCision has 200 clients, many of which are Fortune 500 companies and national charities, and we help them with fundraising drives by communicating with their donors through telephone, mail and Web.”
InfoCision has 4,200 employees, with more than 1,000 in the Akron area, where its headquarters is located. It also runs a large operation in Green in Summit County as well as offices throughout the state and surrounding states.
Meanwhile, PlusOne Communications located its new information technology resources center in a renovated building in downtown Akron, and plans to create 1,000 new jobs. AT&T has also announced a $120 million investment in Akron for a new mobility data center — one of only nine such centers nationwide.
In addition, Involta LLC of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has broken ground on a data center in Akron that will house computer systems, databases and related IT components for a range of companies and institutions. Involta’s $20 million facility is scheduled to open in late 2011.
Other Success Stories
Diamond Polymers designs and supplies thermoplastic materials and resins, and has expanded its product line by adding Centrex after acquiring it from competitor INEOS ABS of Addyston, Ohio. Also, other plastics and chemical companies such as Omnova and A. Schulman Inc. are looking to expand their global reach. In fact, A. Schulman plans to take its current annual resins and plastics sales of $1.3 billion to $5 billion within the decade.
“Akron offers a good quality of life, a low-cost work environment and a productive and available workforce,” Rebadow says. “There is also a big push in our schools toward STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — with a major effort to emphasize those subjects in our next generation of students and workforce.”