-- Cyrus Sethna --
Why did Akron succeed as an industrial spot along the canal? Most of Akron's growth in its early years can be attributed to being at the "summit" of the Ohio and Erie Canals. The history of the rubber industry and Akron's history go hand-in-hand. Rubber transformed the City of Akron from a small canal town into a fledgling city. Lots of rubber manufacturers started coming to Akron starting with B.F. Goodrich in 1869. For a while Akron, Ohio was the fastest growing American city.
Akron has taken many steps to try and spruce itself up again. The whole "Quaker Square" deal is a classic example. The hotel made out of silos is nifty, when my parents got married they put their guests up there. It's just a very neat place to stay with some local color. When I was little I'd always wonder what it was like to be inside as we drove past. I'm a huge fan of Quaker Square. It was an excellent idea to spruce up the former site of the Quaker Oats Company, but now it's not even a shadow of what it was when I was a lad. I'm really bummed about the largest model train display that used to be at the Depot but is no longer there.
These, "Ooh, come look at us!" attractions are examples of how the City (or people in the city) is using its history to boost itself a little economically. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they have failed completely; however, they aren't really glowing successes. I don't really need to point out why, just look around Akron. People aren't going to flock to Akron, Ohio to see where the rubber industry got its start or where Ferdinand Schumacher made a somewhat yucky breakfast food.
Akron was once a great City, but now it has shrunk considerably on the map. I wouldn't say it's just Cleveland's mistress, but it definitely doesn't have as much to offer as Cleveland does. I don't really see how Akron and Cleveland could interact more than they already do. They're two discrete cities with only a defunct canal in common.
What does Akron lack that prevents it from competing with other metropolitan areas? I don't thinik that this is the right question. The question is what does Akron have that prevents it from being on a level playing field? The answer is simple. There are too many poor minorities that are scaring the rich white folks away. And the few rich white folks that make it there get bored because there isn't really anything for them to do. There are only so many times you can go to the Akron Art Museam. The soap box derby is cool.
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