Over the past few years, our Fund has been working with our Summit County-based Fund members and other local partners to strengthen the performance of the talent development system in Summit County; support and sustain a vibrant entrepreneurial culture and climate in Akron; and maximize the Greater Akron outcomes generated by our regional job creation partners.

Our goal has been to work with local partners to develop and support effective local strategies that connect to and leverage regional economic capacities, and to provide lessons that can inform similar work in other parts of the region. Indeed, the work in Akron and Summit County has influenced efforts in Stark County and elsewhere.

ConxusNEO is an excellent example of ongoing work to improve the talent development system and maximize job creation outcomes. 

An assessment of the talent development system in Summit County, supported by our Fund, found that system included a handful of high-performing organizations, including Stark State College. However, those organizations weren’t well aligned and coordinated. Late County Executive Russ Pry, an early and effective advocate for strengthening the talent development system in Summit County, took the risk of leading a group of civic leaders through a rigorous process that led to the establishment of ConxusNEO. ConxusNEO was created to facilitate and coordinate collaboration among the talent development organizations. Using data to determine the talent needs of area companies, the nonprofit then pinpoints high-demand jobs and works with partners to help residents prepare for these opportunities. 

Subsequently, our Fund helped coordinate a connection between ConxusNEO and regional manufacturing advocacy and support organization MAGNET, as a way to help MAGNET break into the Akron market.

ConxusNEO and MAGNET made a joint hire to coordinate the industry-led manufacturing network in Summit County and ensure broader workforce needs are addressed and met, ultimately informing ConxusNEO’s work. Meanwhile, MAGNET added to its staff a manufacturing liaison for Summit and Medina counties to work with local manufacturers to make sure they are connected to and can draw on all the regional resources MAGNET offers to the industry.

This set-up has helped “bring MAGNET where we need to be,” said Ethan Karp, MAGNET president and CEO. MAGNET is now working deeply with a number of manufacturers in Summit County—something Ethan said would not be possible without the partnership with ConxusNEO.

ConxusNEO Chair Kirstin Toth, senior vice president of Fund member GAR Foundation, summarized the relationship like so: “Our close work with MAGNET—sharing key staff and aligning our missions—is the precise example of how regional capacity supported by the Fund is enriching our local, on-the-ground experts and resulting in real wins.“

For more information or to get involved in the above efforts, contact Director of Regional Engagement Bradford Davy.