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Council supports Bits and Atoms center

6/26/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Also, Akron says goodbye to Robert Bowman

DOWNTOWN AKRON — After a presentation by Akron Global Business Accelerator CEO Anthony Margida June 23, Akron City Council voted to authorize an application for a grant to support the construction of the Bits and Atoms Innovation Center.

Margida told Council’s Economic Development and Job Creation Committee the Bits and Atoms Innovation Center, which has already been awarded $2 million through the state capital budget, would serve entrepreneurs in technology fields.

“It’s an extension of what we’ve done well for the last 30 years,” he said. “We’re entering into a new age for entrepreneurs.”

The ordinance approved by Council authorizes application for a one-time capital improvement grant from the Economic Development Administration.

“It will be a catalyst for new companies and job creation,” said committee Chairwoman Margo Sommerville (D-Ward 3) as she presented the ordinance to the full Council at the regular meeting.

In other business, Council gave retiring Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Bowman a fond send-off. Bowman is retiring effective today, June 26.

In April, Mayor Don Plusquellic announced Bowman was going to retire by year’s end due to new Ohio Public Employees Retirement System changes.

On June 18, the city announced that, due to a quick sale of his house in West Akron, Bowman recently made his retirement effective at the end of June. He and his wife are moving to Florida to be closer to family.

Bowman began his career with the City of Akron nearly 10 years ago after serving as senior vice president of economic development for the Greater Akron Chamber, previously the Akron Regional Development Board. He held that position for 16 years.

Council approved a resolution honoring Bowman for his leadership, which, according to the resolution, “helped transform the Department of Economic Development’s program into a successful, efficient, full-service development plan focused on business retention, attraction and creation.”

Bowman has been in the position with the city for 10 years.

“He’s done such a great job for our city,” said Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large), adding Akron has become the envy of Ohio and the wider region for its economic development efforts. “Many other cities out there would love to have someone like a Bob Bowman on their team.”

“You have done an outstanding job for the citizens of Akron,” added fellow at-large Councilman Michael Williams. “You will be missed.”

Councilwoman Marilyn Keith (D-Ward 8) said she was sorry to lose Bowman from the city and also he and his wife, Carol, as constituents.

“Thank you for your dedication,” Keith said. “Akron is certainly a better place because of you.”

Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) and Vice President Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) talked of Bowman’s frequent travels to international trade shows to attract new businesses to Akron.

“Whenever we go [abroad], whenever we say ‘Akron, Ohio,’ people light up,” Moneypenny said.

Noting the hours Bowman, a tall man, spent on a plane in coach, Freemen asked him to remember that he leaves a legacy of children opening presents on Christmas morning because their dad was able to get a job.

Deputy Planning Director for Economic Development Sam DeShazior will assume Bowman’s role. Economic Development Manager Adele Roth will transition into DeShazior’s former position.

“I thank you for leaving us in good hands with Sam and Adele,” said Councilman Russel Neal Jr. (D-Ward 4).

“It’s really a team effort,” an emotional Bowman said in his brief comments as he thanked the mayor and the city officials he has worked with.

Also at the meeting, Council:

  • agreed to Neal’s request to have a caucus meeting Aug. 4, the first Monday of Council’s summer break, to discuss several issues;
  • approved an ordinance authorizing agreement for $42.8 million in funding from the state Local Transportation Improvement Program and the State Capital Improvement Program for several capital improvement projects;
  • approved a resolution appointing Moneypenny and Keith to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board;
  • placed on next week’s consent agenda an ordinance permitting a replacement guaranty agreement among the city, the Akron Urban League and Summit County to allow for refinancing a 2007 loan for the Urban League’s community service center; and
  • also placed on the consent agenda an ordinance authorizing Plusquellic and Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson to negotiate and enter into agreements to secure the East Akron Community House building for the purposes of continuing programs and services for the residents of East Akron and to make payments in connection with any agreements reached. During the public comment period, several people voiced passionate support for the troubled agency and its building.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place June 30 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, located at 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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