by Mayor Dan Horrigan
As Mayor, one of my main strategies to help this City thrive is to grow our population, specifically to 250,000 by 2050, an increase of about 50,000 people. One of the ways we can do this is by taking care of the population that is here: to see that they have equitable access to healthcare, to transportation, to recreation and to fundamental community assets like grocery stores, banks and schools.
However, having “access” to services, specifically when it comes to services like banking, may mean more than just being in close proximity to those services. Many Akronites are not currently involved in any type of banking relationship, mostly due to lack of trust, or exposure to real-life examples of such a relationship. So how do we empower our citizens to improve and develop their banking habits and live fiscally healthier lives?
The City is working hard to facilitate a continued stream of public, private and philanthropic investment into Akron that will have a significant impact on the social and economic health of our neighborhoods. With nearly 3 in 5 Akron households unable to afford the basic cost of living, per the United Way ALICE Report, there is a real need in this community to address pressing problems through collaborative efforts. True collaborations between organizations that have a vested interest in their community will result in meaningful and impactful community change.
In a bold effort to address the needs of Akron’s ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population, the City of Akron, with support from the United Way of Summit County, is announcing the creation of the first Financial Empowerment Center, located in the Kenmore neighborhood. Hopefully the first of several, these centers would offer the community opportunities to gain the skills, knowledge and resources to budget and save, manage debt, build credit and access banking services. To further build upon this collaborative effort, this first center will be made possible by Huntington Bank’s donation of its Kenmore branch at 1060 Kenmore Blvd. The 4,000-square-foot facility will provide a venue for financial counselors – hired and trained in partnership with United Way – to meet with local residents and help them build assets, reduce debt, budget for the future, improve their credit scores and access safe and affordable banking services. The branch is slated to open in the first quarter of 2018.
The City’s financial empowerment center will greatly benefit both local families, who will enjoy increased financial independence and competency, and local businesses that will have access to a more financially stable local workforce.
Our bold move to directly affect the financial health of our citizens is possible due to the broad and strong partnerships that are present in our City. We’re excited to see where these new partnerships take us, and more importantly, how they immediately equip our citizens with the skills and knowledge to help them thrive.