FIGURE 5 The shape of our regional economy.
SOURCE: Luis Proenza, Presentation at the April 25-26, 2011, National Academies Symposium on “Building the Ohio Innovation Economy.”

“Over the last 12 years, we have undertaken a major renovation of our campus into a new landscape for learning. This has generated great energy, and transformed the facilities for the betterment of the community. For the first time, governmental entities in Akron recognized that the university is a significant asset in the community—not just because we created many construction jobs, but because our ability to attract students, researchers, and others is collectively making an economic impact.”

‘An Island of Beauty Surrounded by a Sea of Decline’

An essential realization was that the neighborhood surrounding the university needed revitalization, and if the university did not take an interest, it would eventually suffer. “We could not build an island of beauty surrounded by a sea of decline,” Dr. Proenza said. The university joined with the Knight Foundation and began a University-Park Alliance to revitalize a 50-block, 1,000-acre area. To date, outcomes include more than $300 million in private-sector investment, some 920 new jobs, 80 new housing units, and 34 acres of new green space.

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