Rust Belt Perseverance: Akron, Ohio renews its revitalization effort after false start

As many midsize post-industrial cities have struggled to forge new economic identities out of their manufacturing pasts in recent decades, Akron, Ohio, has frequently been pointed to as a success story.

A 2008 Brookings Institution paper cited Akron as a model of “how cities could recover from the decline of their city’s primary economic engine” and suggested that Akron was “on the road to a full turnaround.”

Nearly eight years later, a less-glowing report suggests that Akron’s struggles with housing, employment and developing a thriving downtown are causing the city to fall behind.

The new “62.4 Report” (the figure references the city’s size in square miles) compares Akron’s economic health to five peer cities — Erie, Pennsylvania; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Hamilton, Ohio; Syracuse, New York; and Worcester, Massachusetts.

The report finds that Akron and its residents are experiencing a “troubling decline in economic health.

However, “62.4” is more warning signal than death knell. The city has launched a number of promising initiatives and programs in recent years, and the authors believe Akron has the potential to grow into a thriving, urban center.

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