Welcoming Plan


Akron, Ohio, October, 12, 2017—Today, the City of Akron and the County of Summit released Phase I of their Strategic Welcome Plan. This document is the culmination of sixteen months of work by the City of Akron, the County of Summit, Asian Services in Action (ASIA Inc.), Global Ties Akron and the International Institute of Akron (IIA). The Strategic Welcome Plan outlines the vision, goals and strategies to move the city and county in a direction that maximizes the opportunity to grow in population, diversity, and opportunity, and be a welcoming community for all.

Communities across the country are constantly competing to attract the residents and workers that will allow them to thrive in a global economy.  Newcomers play an important role in growing our population, supporting our workforce, diversifying the academic environment at our local universities, and starting small businesses that create jobs – all drivers of economic prosperity.

“Welcoming” aims to develop a true respect and appreciation for our neighbors, creating policies and programs that support inclusion, and making sure that everyone – newcomers and longtime residents alike – feel they belong and have the tools they need to succeed.

The Welcoming effort began in 2015 when Akron City Council and Summit County Council passed resolutions proclaiming this to be a welcoming community.  Shortly after, IIA applied for a competitive award to support the development of a welcoming plan through Welcoming America and New American Economy’s Gateways for Growth Challenge.  Mayor Horrigan and the late County Executive Russ Pry agreed to co-chair the Welcoming effort.  In March of 2016, Akron/Summit County was chosen as one of 20 communities to receive the Gateways for Growth award and one of only five communities across the United States to receive a $12,500 matching grant.  The City of Akron, County of Summit, Akron Community Foundation and Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation all came together to contribute the required $12,500 matching funds.

Receiving the Gateways for Growth Challenge award – including tailored research on the economic contributions of New Americans in Akron and Summit County, technical assistance from Welcoming America and New American Economy, and a matching grant – enabled our city and county to create this first ever community Strategic Welcome Plan.

“Our foreign born population has proven to be an economic driver for our region,” said Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. “Whether it is through in increase in small business ownership, adding to the workforce, or increasing homeownership rates, Summit County has seen the benefits of being a Welcoming community.”

The four goals outlined in the Strategic Welcoming Plan include:

  1. Enhance the network of public and private partners that serve and empower New Americans to facilitate their integration into the Akron community.
  2. Adopt initiatives and policies in public and private institutions that are delivered in a way that allows for equitable participation and in a way that is respectful of the religion, culture, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, age and sexual orientation of members of both immigrant and receiving communities.
  3. Empower and guide new Americans through identified ethnic community leaders, to understand and navigate public and private service systems.
  4. Increase cultural and linguistic accessibility to all community and government services.

A proud partner in this effort, Mayor Horrigan added, “This strategic plan is important work in truly promoting our community as welcoming. Being welcoming goes beyond a simple willingness to do so—it takes a concentrated and coordinated effort to advance community communication, education and access to services for both new and longtime Americans. This plan is the first step in organizing partners and government agencies to factor inclusion and welcoming into their daily work.”

“We are a small, big town where entire families can thrive socially and economically in a neighborly environment,” Elaine Woloshyn, executive director of the International Institute of Akron said of why immigrants and refugees are choosing to settle in Akron and Summit County.

Phase II, as described in this initial plan, will quickly move forward in November 2017.  This next phase will replicate the existing Refugee Health Task Force hosted by the Summit County Department of Public Health across five other sectors.  Over the course of the next year, each sector will create a list of objectives and tasks and a work plan to implement moving forward as it relates to the vision, goals and strategies outlined in the written Akron/Summit County Strategic Welcome plan, available here.