Mayors gather in Cuyahoga Falls to show they’re “Open for Business” in their communities

Approximately 40 people attended Open for Business on Oct. 14 at Quirk Cultural Center where representatives of local and county government, business and industry, and the general public talked about ways business and employment opportunities could be increased in the northern tier of Summit County.

The open discussion was hosted by Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, along with City of Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters, City of Stow Mayor Sara Kline, City of Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong and Village of Silver Lake Mayor Bernie Hovey and in partnership with the Cuyahoga Falls and Stow-Munroe Falls Chambers of Commerce.

Summit County Councilwoman Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3) was also in attendance as well as representatives of Summit County Jobs and Family Services, the Women’s Business Centers of Ohio, UStoWork, ConxusNEO, SCORE and Development Finance Authority of Summit County.

This was the first in a series of three sessions. A second one was planned for Oct. 21 in Green and the third one will be in Macedonia on Oct. 28, according to David Kish, spokesman for the county executive’s office.

“I want to hear from all of us collectively on what we can do to grow jobs and businesses, retain them and attract them, here in Summit County and come up with some brainstorming ideas of what we would like to see,” Shapiro said.

“There are 31 communities in Summit County,” she said. “We have large cities, villages and townships. They all have needs We want to work to attract and retain businesses here, and retain our youth.”

Sometimes a developer may come to a city with the idea for a project and it may not go anywhere in that particular community, Shapiro said. She said she would like to see communities work together and if one community can’t host a project, then that community should recommend another community to the developer.

Lou Schott, a retired Goodyear engineer, said in the future there will be two kinds of jobs: telling the digital networks what to do and letting the digital networks tell you what to do. Schott said communities need to identify their economic cycles. Each one will be different, he said, because they each have their own set of employers.

“We have to figure out what [performance] indicators we want to use,” Schott said. “You don’t need 10,000 pages; only one web page.”

Kline said there have been attempts made in the past to formalize relationships amongst the communities around the county. “Stow is a community, for a variety of reasons, that chose not to be a part of some formal relationships about businesses moving and taxes,” she said.

“We should pursue those formal relationships, but we should never forget the informal networking, relationship building, the getting to know your neighbor kind of thing,” said Kline.

Bill Flinta of Westfield Bank in Cuyahoga Falls and the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce said employers in this area are having trouble finding qualified employees. “I hear people say, ‘I’ll even take them untrained if I can just get them to show up on time and pass a drug test,'” he said.

Flinta said Stow is “blessed” with a lot of high school graduates who go on to college. “But college isn’t for everyone,” he said. “What can we do to get our schools to do better and expose students to careers that don’t require a full college degree?”

Hovey said he taught for 45 years and “got in trouble with the guidance counselor a lot” because he suggested to students they didn’t have to go to college.

“I think schools do do a disservice telling everybody, ‘You have to go to college,'” he said. “I pay my plumbers a ton of money, mechanics, electricians — because I can’t do that stuff.” Hovey said his son didn’t finish college when he decided it wasn’t for him. He is a sheet metal worker today, he said. “He is as happy as can be and making very good money We need skilled laborers.”

Kline said she agreed with Flinta and Hovey and pointed out students in the Six District Compact regularly tour local plants and factories to see what those places are like and what they have to offer. She told a story about the owner of a factory who asked a group of high school students who had just toured his plant if the experience was what they expected.

A ninth-grade girl raised her hand and said no. He asked her why.

“I thought everyone would be sad,” she said. Kline said the girl was surprised the man’s factory “wasn’t this dreary, dark, dreadful place to go to work every day and [the employees] had interesting things to do.”

Shapiro said the dirty old factory is a stereotype and today’s manufacturing facilities are high-tech.

Carol Howlett of UStoWork in Hudson said parents as well as educators need to be on board with the idea that not all children have to go to college. “We need to actually get the parents involved with the guidance counselors to show them there are opportunities for our children that do not necessarily include college degrees.”

Walters and Armstrong spoke on the importance of communities working together. “We’re about collaboration; working with the other communities to share resources,” said Walters. “I know the Chambers cross over. We don’t operate on an island.”

Armstrong, who is nearing the end of his first year as mayor, said he appreciates the support he’s received from Walters and Kline. “My job is not to be an island and reach out and support the businesses in Cuyahoga Falls and Stow,” he said. “Even in Silver Lake I always go to Silver Lake Florist, since right before I got married.”

“We all have to work together in the county and I think we do, probably better than ever in the history of the local cities,” Walters said. “I can tell you there’s a synergy that’s going on that we’ve never experienced before.”

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Wiandt, Steven. (2016, October 20).  Mayors gather in Cuyahoga Falls to show they’re ‘Open for Business” in their communities.  Nordionia Hills News Leader. Retrieved from