Rebuilding the City of Akron, One Innovative Idea at a Time

By Heather Roszczyk, innovation and entrepreneurship advocate for the City of Akron

For decades, Akron was known for its innovative spirit – from the black treads of the rubber companies to Devo’s red energy domes. As someone who has been deeply immersed in the entrepreneurial community for the past two years, I can tell you our innovative spirit is alive and well today. Northside Marketplace is brimming with growing businesses; construction is about to begin at Bounce Innovation Hub; and eBay just chose us as the only city in the country to launch its new program aimed at supporting brick and mortar businesses – just to name a few! As we continue to see the development of new and exciting technologies and our creative community forces us to go beyond the boundaries of how we view the world, I believe it is a great time to be an Akronite. But there is always room to grow, and we need your continued input on how to do it.

To help facilitate this process, one month ago, I stepped into the newly created role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Advocate with the City of Akron. In short, my role is to be the conduit between Mayor Horrigan and entrepreneurs throughout the city. I act as their advocate within city hall, using input provided by them, their colleagues and the many excellent support organizations in Akron, to help identify and address the needs of the community and celebrate the successes. I also work on a number of special projects, such as serving as the local project manager for eBay’s Retail Revival program, the city’s liaison to Bounce and more.

That said, this is not my first time working with and for entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial community. Prior to accepting this role, I was the Akron Entrepreneurship Fellow with the Fund for Our Economic Future. In that position, I worked with a number of support organizations, such as Launch League, UARF, SBDC, ECDI and others to bolster the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Akron. For the last two years, I have heard business owners express excitement about Mayor Horrigan’s emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. From the launch of Bounce to the partnership with eBay, this administration is making clear each and every day that entrepreneurship is a priority. We want to focus on the companies here in Akron, listen to their needs and give them support and resources to grow.

So, at the end of the day, what does all this mean and, more importantly, how exactly do I serve Akron’s entrepreneurs? For starters, please feel free to come to me if there’s something you think the mayor’s office can or should help with. Whether it’s finding space for your company or helping to sort through regulations – I may not have the answer right away, but I’m happy to help find it. I also hope you’ll come to me with your ideas on how to build a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem and with your hopes for the city.

Also, be sure to share your successes with me so Akron can celebrate with you! Mayor Horrigan has publicly committed to meeting with companies who hit significant fundraising milestones. When your company is bursting with pride over a great deal or a goal achieved, please tell us. We love bragging about our entrepreneurs! Last: thank you. Change is usually a little awkward at best, and there are some big changes happening here. I truly believe the outcome will be worth it and that all of you will benefit from the growth that is happening here at Bounce and across northeast Ohio. But I also recognize that you’re taking this leap of faith with us, and I’m so grateful for your trust.