Thanks to the generous support of the Knight Foundation, GAR Foundation and United Way of Summit County, our CEO Jacqui was able to spend a day and a half in Columbus (Ohio) with community leaders and activists from Akron. Here is her account from the day and a half that she spent touring and learning:
I was thrilled to be invited along with so many passionate and inspiring people who hold various leadership positions all throughout Akron to visit Columbus. Columbus was chosen because it was only 2 hours south of Akron and offered many learning opportunities in areas of importance to our community in this time of growth and change. Ohio’s largest city, Columbus experienced very little impact from the Great Recession in 2007. In recent years Columbus has continued to grow in population and seen a resurgence in many of it’s once struggling neighborhoods, including the downtown business district. Since 2008, Columbus has received many national accolades including: 15th most literate city in the country in 2008 by Central Connecticut State University; 2012, Columbus was ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek as America’s 20th Best City; one of Thumbtack’s “Top 10 Cities for Black-Owned Small Businesses in America 2015; 8th best city for Women Entrepreneurs by Forbes in 2012; and more.
During my time on the trip, I was fortunate to address the entire group to let everyone know what Keep Akron Beautiful’s programming entails and all about our litter prevention and beautification efforts, as well as programs such as the Community Pride Trailer and Litter and Illegal Dump Cleanup Trailer. Many of the people on the trip were not aware of all of the services that KAB has to offer- so it was a great time to share what we do and how we can help make their jobs a little easier, as well.
Some of the best times of the trip were while talking and collaborating with other leaders while sharing a meal or walking to a location! I enjoyed time with Tina Ughrin – a North Hill Community Leader who worked very hard on the Akron Better Block in North Hill. Tina and her husband John are also neighbors of mine in North Hill.
On Monday morning the group was able to hear from some of the Columbus City Council leaders who have made an impact on Columbus’ neighborhoods and making the community a better place to live, work and play. The panel discussion with q&a was quite interesting and taught me so much about working with community leaders and how to make things happen! I got a true sense that the Columbus City Council was all about collaboration and working together- something I am proud to say that Akron does so well. Next, Tina and I took off on a morning walk to our appointments in the Short North. We were able to meet with the Executive Director of the North Market. If you haven’t heard of the North Market- you can check out their website, here: North Market. It would be so wonderful to see an operation like this occupy some of Akron’s old warehouses or somewhere near downtown! What a great way to bring fresh foods to the community and also a great way to try some of the local Columbus businesses foods!
After our meeting at the North Market, we enjoyed lunch there and moved on to meet with the Downtown Columbus Development Corporation – Ashley who met and spoke to us showed us Columbus Commons, much like Lock 3 Park- and the Scioto Greenways project- check out their website here: Scioto Greenways. It was great to see and hear what they are doing, but it also gave me some good ideas of things to bring back to Akron. I loved some of the water features (smaller water features) that were outside of the parkland and Scioto River Habitat- as well as all of the bike parking nearby and some of the awesome places to sit and even swing! What a great idea- adding places to sit and swing to some of our more accessible City parks. Another one of my favorite ideas was the bike parking with flower beds and green spaces on top- check out this great photo that Suzie from Downtown Akron Partnership took-
The trip was a huge success with all of these meetings and interactions- but a high point was definitely a tour of the Statehouse and visit from Senator Tom Sawyer and Representative Emilia Sykes. After that, we enjoyed a great meal all together, decompressing from our day! I couldn’t even speak at the wrap up point because my mind was buzzing with so many great ideas. I am excited to bring some quick wins home to Akron, but also excited to see all of the progress that takes place from the amazing group of people that were able to attend and all of the work that they do to make Akron a better place!
Thanks again to Kyle Kutuchief from the Knight Foundation, Dina Younis from the GAR Foundation and the incredible team from United Way, including Beth Boggins, Nichole Booker, Ann Manby, Seth Kujat and Adrienne Bradley – without you this wouldn’t have been possible and I learned so very much from this trip.