Regional marketing efforts gain steam

Akron and Canton join forces; Dayton area already thinking regionally

Dayton area development leaders say an effort just announced by community leaders in Akron and Canton to market their region as one community is part of a trend of all areas of the state trying to present themselves as competitive for new companies and residents.

Community leaders in two metropolitan areas in northeast Ohio announced this week they are joining forces to market their region as the “Akron-Canton Metroplex.” The area would comprise two industrial cities - Akron and Canton - with roughly 1.1 million population.

The new moniker isn’t likely to impact the Dayton region, economic development experts say, but the effort does mimic efforts here to present the Dayton and Cincinnati region as an attractive place to live, work and grow a business.

“We’re not worried about what’s going on in northeast Ohio,” said Chris Kershner of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. He added “A region can market themselves however they see it as most beneficial but there are specific things employers look for and it’s access to workforce.”

Development officials in Dayton and Cincinnati metropolitan areas have for more than a decade sought ways to cooperate on projects that benefit the region.

“It continues to gain steam, especially as Dayton and Cincinnati continue to grow closer,” Kershner said.

Dayton officials will visit Minneapolis-St. Paul next month to talk with business, media and economic development officials there to see how that metro-merger has worked for St. Paul, the smaller of the two cities.

Community leaders in Stark and Summit counties came up with moniker Akron-Canton Metroplex as a way to market that area’s local assets and leveraging the combined 1.1 million population within the two metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).

Separately, neither MSA — areas that are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget — ranks in the largest 80 in the U.S. Together, however, they would jump into the top 50. An Akron-Canton MSA would be the fourth largest in Ohio, trailing only the Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland MSAs.

Long-term, the group hopes to get the federal government to formalize the designation of four counties into a new, combined MSA - Summit, Stark, Portage and Carroll counties. Until then, using the identifier Akron-Canton Metroplex will aid in marketing the region to outsiders.

The Dayton MSA includes the 800,000 people in Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties. Next door Clark County contains all of the Springfield MSA with 138,000 people. The Cincinnati MSA, by contrast, has 2.2 million people in seven counties in northern Kentucky, five in Ohio and three in Indiana.

Efforts by Dayton-area development leaders to market the region don’t necessarily follow MSA lines when trying to help a business re-locate or expand in Ohio. The Dayton Development Coalition is a coalition of business and community leaders and works across a 14-county region with 1.8 million residents from Auglaize to Butler counties. When it coordinates with JobsOhio - the statewide economic development agency - the DDC focuses on a 12 county area.

DDC spokeswoman Shannon Joyce Neal said employers looking to expand or re-locate are primarily interested in sites and workers. Rather than being tuned into statistical areas, employers want to know how many skilled workers live within a 60 minute drive or how many engineers graduate each year from universities within 100 miles, she said.

“From the Dayton Development Coalition perspective, we almost always talk regionally,” Neal said.

The DDC Data Center is an online tool that offers searchable information on area demographics, consumer spending, property, labor force, wages and more for a 12-county region.

Meanwhile, the Akron-Canton Metroplex branding effort is in full swing in northeast Ohio. The local chamber of commerce explains ‘metroplex’ as a conurbation — two areas that grow together through continued development, similar to Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas.

“As we focus on economic growth, and seek our share of resources and visibility, we believe that for external audiences and statewide decision makers, looking at Akron-Canton as a region or a metroplex to compete for funding, business opportunity and visitors can ‘upsize’ the opportunity for all of us,” the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce says on its website.

Information from The Canton Repository is included in this report.

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