As Mayor Don Plusquellic accepted the Greater Akron Chamber’s top annual honor for his international economic development campaign, he briefly turned the spotlight back on the room — a sold-out crowd of 1,100 people at the John S. Knight Center Tuesday evening.
“All of us have a hero out there. All of us can look to someone who has really done something to make an organization better,” he said.
“And this truly is Akron,” he said of the gathering of business and community leaders. “It’s not the people who sit on their couches and complain. This room ... we are Akron, and we can all make Akron better.”
Plusquellic is the first elected official to receive the H. Peter Burg award, which typically honors business leaders in the private sector. But the chamber’s selection committee decided to give it to the mayor for his work in generating international business attention for this mid-size Ohio city.
The mayor is “a primary reason why Akron is known as a place where you can get things done,” said Steve Marks, chief executive officer of Main Street Gourmet and last year’s Burg winner.
“From working the floor of the world’s largest trade fair in Hanover, Germany, to speaking to Rogues Scholars in Argentina, to sharing Akron’s engineering skills with democracies in Serbia, Don Plusquellic has made Akron a familiar name around the globe,” Marks said.
After Marks’ introduction, a short film was played with area leaders sharing their thoughts on Plusquellic’s achievements.
University of Akron President Luis Proenza noted wide-ranging efforts the mayor has played a significant role in — from the Austen BioInnovation Institute (a partnership of the city’s three hospitals) to the University Park Alliance (a group dedicated to reinventing one of Akron’s inner city neighborhoods.)
The mayor’s greatest trait is “the ability to see all aspects of the city and see how they weave into a tapestry,” Proenza said.
Goodyear CEO Rick Kramer said Plusquellic makes Akron an attractive place for any company to want to move here.
“They come with skepticism and never want to leave,” he said.
He said he was particularly impressed that during the city’s efforts to help Goodyear obtain funding and build a new world headquarters, Plusquellic wasn’t concerned about maintaining some intangible legacy but “what Goodyear meant to Akron’s future.”
GOJO CEO Joe Kanfer said the company probably wouldn’t even be in Akron if it weren’t for the mayor.
And the Rev. Ronald Fowler noted how once-blighted and crime-ridden neighborhoods like Edgewood Park and Joy Park have been remade and are now places of pride, and Plusquellic’s “fingerprints are all over that.”
Plusquellic was emotional throughout his own remarks. He said he’s received national awards before, “but it’s different when your hometown recognizes your work.”
He closed saying he felt privileged that he’s had the opportunity to serve — he’s been Akron’s mayor for more than 26 years — “and to every day try to find a way to live up to the trust and the support you have given me.”