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Study shows Akron blacks are excluded from economic opportunity

Posted at 9:22 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 21:49:14-04

A major study that included a partnership between four entities found that Akron's black population is being excluded from economic opportunity.

Elevate Akron was conducted by the city of Akron, the county of Summit, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and GAR foundation.

Among the findings, Akron ranks among the 10 worst metro areas in the country when it comes to the black unemployment rate and among the five worst for black earnings.

The numbers don't surprise Nathan Glenn who talks with African American job seekers daily as the manager of an Akron temporary job service business.

"They all said they have not been able to land or score any type of positions in the city of Akron," Glenn said.

The study concluded that excluding Akron's black population-- which is about 31 percent of the city-- from local economic growth hurts the region as a whole.

"If we want to meet our economic goals, if we want to create as many jobs as we can, get people employed as much as possible and earning the amount of dollars that they can earn, we have to include the black community in those economic solutions," said Steve Millard, the president and CEO of Greater Akron Chamber.

Dr. Sadie Winlock, the president and CEO of the Akron Urban League, calls it a systemic issue.

"Our society has been built on a privileged population of the majority and it has not really recognized minorities and the needs of minorities in the community," Winlock said.

One factor for the problem, according to the study, is manufacturing jobs that have moved away from Akron over the past few decades.

Several job opportunities are popping up in areas outside of the city, including the job hub in Twinsburg, but that's not a practical option for those who rely on bus transportation.

"If you don't have a car and you live in Akron, it may take you 90 minutes to get to the Twinsburg job hub by bus," Millard said.

County and city leaders are now looking at "highly intentional" ways for Akron's black population to share in prosperity.

Ideas include building digital skills, connecting to mid-tech jobs, developing intern programs and establishing long-term inclusion strategies.

Dr. Winlock describes it as a matter of equity.

"Equality is treating everybody the same, giving everybody the same chances to be successful. Equity is giving people what they need to be successful," she said. "As our world becomes more brown, it's more evident that we really have to address this."

Glenn hopes with more of a focus on including blacks in economic opportunities, fewer people will come to him struggling to find work.

"Everyone needs jobs. Everyone needs employment. Everyone needs money."