In many ways, Akron, Ohio is a unique city. It was once dubbed the "Rubber Capital of the World" because of the plethora of tire companies located there. Akron is also the birthplace of LeBron James, the location of the Soap Box Derby Championships, and home to one of the largest populations of Bhutanese refugees in the world. It has unique organizations, architecture and communities.

 The Annual First Night Akron event on New Years Eve (Source: Shane Wynn via Akronstock)

The Annual First Night Akron event on New Years Eve (Source: Shane Wynn via Akronstock)

But in other ways, Akron shares many characteristics with dozens of other midsize cities across the country: It has a great university, a historic downtown and a central waterway. It has a host of businesses headquartered in its region and an economically diverse population residing in its neighborhoods. 

The way the city has developed is not so different from other communities either: Akron grew rapidly in the middle of the 20th century and today, it's grappling with how to pay for an overextended infrastructure network after its population has dramatically decreased. In approaching this challenge, Akron residents and leaders are choosing to take small steps and make incremental improvements using the assets they already have — and they possess so many — rather than to go all-in on more large-scale, risky investments.

This is why we find ourselves in Akron. Throughout 2018, Strong Towns is getting to know the people and places that make this city great, and working with Akronites to talk about a more economically resilient future where residents are empowered and change happens neighborhood by neighborhood, from the ground up. We're sharing our message with the city of Akron, in person and online, and we're also sharing the story of Akron with our readers and members around the globe. This work is made possible through a partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

You may have seen some of our recent stories on the Rust Belt city like this one about Akron's housing challenges or this one about small economic investments that are turning the tide in Akron neighborhoods. This week, we'll share several more, and we'll continue discussing the great city of Akron throughout 2018. Visit our Akron page to stay up to date.

If you're an Akronite, we can't wait to get to know you and be part of making your community a strong town. We invite you to meet us at the Akron Civic Theater tomorrow (Tuesday) evening for a public conversation led by President of Strong Towns, Chuck Marohn, and we encourage you to join our Strong Akron Facebook group where we'll continue the dialogue all year long.

And if you don't live in Akron, we're confident that you'll start seeing your city in this story, too. We want to help Akron and cities like it become economically thriving communities that are poised to make use of their many assets and prepared to weather challenges ahead.

“When we look at Akron, we see nothing but opportunity,” Charles Marohn, President and Founder of Strong Towns recently remarked. “The opportunities are not big and flashy but small and more powerful than any large-scale project. We're excited to have a conversation about those opportunities with the Akron community.”

(Top photo source: Shane Wynn via Akronstock)