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Akron, Ohio

City of Akron and County of Summit Release Strategic Welcome Plan to Integrate New Americans


City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt, Press Secretary
Published: 10-17-2017

Akron, Ohio, October, 17, 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.


Partner Fact Sheet

About International Institute of Akron

Founded in 1916 International Institute of Akron (IIA) has been a leader in the ever-expanding international community in Akron, and an established fixture on North Hill since 1965. In recent years IIA has also become a central leader to the North Hill neighborhood in general. IIA’s leadership to the broader community originates from a growing emphasis on community outreach initiatives. IIA is one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in Ohio, affiliated with 33 nation-wide partner agencies under the federal U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). IIA professional staff and volunteers are fluent in 15 languages, highly educated, and nearly 50% are themselves immigrants.


About the Gateways for Growth Challenge

Launched in December 2015, the Gateways for Growth Challenge invites communities across the United States to apply for research, technical assistance, and matching grants to support the development and implementation of multi-sector strategic plans for welcoming and integrating new Americans. Akron was one of 20 communities selected during the first round of the Challenge. Twenty-five more communities received the award in the second year of the initiative.

NAE and Welcoming America provide communities selected for Gateways for Growth with one or more of the following:

  • Customized quantitative research reports on the contributions immigrants make to their local economies
  • On-the-ground, technical assistance to help communities draft, execute, and communicate a multi-sector immigrant integration strategy
  • Small planning grants that a local partner has committed to match. 

About New American Economy                                   

New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Learn more at


About Welcoming America

Welcoming America is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is leading a movement of inclusive communities across the nation becoming more prosperous by making everyone who lives there feel like they belong.

As communities are reshaped by demographic change, there must be an intentional effort to manage that transformation. Just as fertile soil is needed for a seed to grow, receptive communities are critical for immigrants to be able to fully participate in the social, civic, and economic fabric of their adopted hometowns. Our unique focus is helping communities move beyond divisiveness and fragmentation to a coordinated web of policies and programs that ensure that all residents - including immigrants - can fully participate and belong. We partner with more than 100 communities across the United States, and we are piloting international welcoming efforts in Germany and Australia.  Learn more at


For further information, contact:
Annie McFadden
Deputy Chief of Staff
Phone: (330) 375-2345
E-mail: [email protected]

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