Today, Akron and Summit released the first phase of its Strategic Welcome Plan, the culmination of 16 months of work to help better integrate refugees and immigrants into the community.
Leaders and local nonprofits hope this can help boost our economy and improve quality of life, as the plan calls for enhancing the public and private partnerships that serve resettled refugees and immigrants, along with guiding them through local ethnic leaders and increasing cultural and linguistic accessibility to all community and government services.
Partners in this effort also include International Institute of Akron, ASIA, Inc.and Global Ties Akron.
Akron and Summit County join communities across the country that are attracting and cultivating residents and workers to better thrive in a global economy. Resettled residents 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, according to a city news release, which adds that the plan seeks to create policies and programs that support inclusion, and making sure all residents have the tools they need to succeed.
In 2015, Akron City Council and Summit County Council passed Welcoming Community proclamations. Shortly after, International Institute of Akron 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. Akron Mayor Dan 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 provided the $12,500 in 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 the 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 an 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.
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,” said Elaine Woloshyn, executive director of the International Institute of Akron, regarding why immigrants and refugees are choosing to settle in Akron and Summit County.
Click here to see the Welcome Plan.
Phase II will move forward in November and 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.