Business retention program sets record with 500 visits in region

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

An economic development and retention program set a record in 2012 for the number of visits it made to businesses in Summit, Portage and Medina counties.

The Greater Akron Partnership, a program within the Greater Akron Chamber, said it visited 500 businesses last year — up from 405 in 2011. The 500 visits set a record for the program, which also partners with other economic development organizations in the area.

The goal is to identify issues that local businesses are having, along with successes.

Preliminary findings from the 2012 visits show:

• Recruiting new employees remains a bit of a challenge. Businesses say they have few problems retaining employees at higher wage and skill levels but retention becomes a problem in lower wage areas.

• Employers overall believe they have a good quality work force.

• Workers compensation rates remain troubling.

• The local business climate is starting to rebound.

• Businesses have positive attitudes toward the communities they are in.

“What we’re really trying to do with this is be proactive,” said Rick Rebadow, executive vice president at the chamber.

The chamber and economic development organizations want to identify trends and draw conclusions, he said.

Some information that is gathered remains confidential, such as if a company says it intends to expand.

If specific problems are identified, then the partnership program works to fix things, he said. In one instance, a company said it had a major problem with a road that was nearly impassable, he said. The local government was contacted, and the road was repaired and repaved. The chamber got a letter from the business that was signed by each employee.

The “business visitations” involve staff with business experience to meet with companies about any issues they may be encountering that affects jobs and growth, said Rebecca Guzy Woodford, senior vice president at the chamber.

“We try to get at them before there are any major concerns,” she said.

Another goal is to identify potential business expansions.

The outreach program, a business development tool, is part of the chamber’s economic development mission. The program visits nonmembers of the chamber as well as members.

The program got its start in 2003 in Summit County and expanded in 2011 to include Medina and Portage counties.

Since its start 10 years ago, the program has conducted 3,021 visits.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com


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