Sommerville: Mayor’s travel crucial to Akron’s economic development

April 29, 2009

Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville took time from Monday night's meeting to defend Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic against accusations that his international travels are an unnecessary drain on the city's budget.

Sommerville (W-3) responded to charges by advocates of a mayoral recall that the mayor should be tending to basic city services instead of travelling overseas to drum up business for Akron.

"I would like to take this opportunity to say that's how mayors throughout the past century took care of business - doing those basic things," said Sommerville, who has accompanied the mayor on economic development missions overseas - most recently to Israel. "Now, this Council and the mayor are about bringing jobs to Akron and retaining jobs.

"We always have to be on guard to keep jobs here."

Sommerville referred to a city report which says 2,200 jobs have been created as a result of the mayor's travels overseas on behalf of Akron since 1994. Companies from several countries in Europe, Japan, Korea, India, China and Israel have either expanded their operations into Akron, acquired business in Akron, entered into a joint venture with an Akron partner or have expressed interest in coming here after hosting the mayor and members of his economic development team in their respective countries.

"Thirty-five companies employ more than two thousand people in Akron as a direct result of our efforts to attract jobs from overseas," Sommerville said. "These are the kinds of things the mayor and City Council is about."

Sommerville warned that 21st century cities are competing more robustly with one another to retain and attract good-paying jobs from American and international companies. He noted that Akron was competing with cities in Tennessee to keep the Bridgestone Firestone technical center from locating near Nashville. After reviewing proposals from both cities, the now Tokyo-based tire company eventually decided Akron offered the better incentive to keep its technical center - and 600 Akron jobs - here.

This kind of competition, he said, is becoming commonplace around the country.

"State legislators spent $60 million to keep 2,000 jobs in South Carolina," he said. "The lieutenant governor of another state once flew into Akron Canton Airport to steal jobs from an Akron rubber maker. We cannot allow this to happen again.

"We have to work aggressively anytime we think there's an economic opportunity for Akron."

Sommerville said as the global economy becomes ever smaller, it is the responsibility of today's city leaders to think globally.

"No matter who is mayor, I would hope the mayor and Council will continue to work to keep jobs in Akron."