Summit County is the first charter county in Ohio and the fourth-most-populous county in the state, with more than 541,000 residents. It is home to the annual All-American Soap Box Derby, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (the country’s seventh-most-visited national park) and the Blossom Music Center. Summit County is also the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous and is known as the Center for Tire Innovation: several notable tire companies have headquarters or offices there, including Bridgestone Americas, ContiTech USA, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Hankook Tire, Kumho Tire, and MESNAC.
Like many communities across the country, Summit County residents struggling with poverty face structural barriers that make achieving upward mobility feel out of reach. Disparities in health care, housing, and transportation, for example, perpetuate the cycle of poverty in people’s lives, and community efforts to address them are not often integrated. Being part of the Upward Mobility Cohort provides the county an opportunity to create a cohesive plan for lifting people out of poverty that aligns many existing initiatives and ultimately yields systemic change.
Local government and community organizations in Summit County are uniquely collaborative and supportive of one another’s efforts to create a stronger community. For instance, when a 2017 study of the economic health of the region revealed that Akron’s Black community experienced particularly troubling economic outcomes, community leaders responded by creating a strategic plan that focused on addressing the underlying issues of poverty and equity. More than 100 organizations are participating in the strategy. Another effort, led by the United Way of Summit and Medina counties, created a center for financial empowerment in one of Akron’s most economically distressed communities. So far, the center has provided more than 3,800 financial coaching sessions with almost 1,400 people. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Summit County created an emergency relief grant program for small businesses using federal pandemic-aid funding and allocated nearly 55 percent of grants to businesses in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
Through its participation in the Upward Mobility Cohort, Summit County has learned that by better integrating data, data collection, and data disaggregation into county operations and its collaborations with community partners, the county will be better able to identify trends and patterns in its progress toward boosting upward mobility. In one case, using the Urban Institute’s mobility metrics helped reveal an alarming rate of juvenile justice arrests (with significant racial disparities) in Summit County. Now, the county has made the safety domain and juvenile arrests priorities in building out its Mobility Action Plan.
Summit County is collaborating with several organizations to develop its Mobility Action Plan. Among them are the following:
- Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority
- Summit County Police Departments
- Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce
- Summit Education Initiative
- Summit County Juvenile Court
- Summit County Public Health