Reps. Tim Ryan, Ro Khanna bring venture capitalists to Akron to spur investment

February 22, 2018 GMT

Reps. Tim Ryan, Ro Khanna bring venture capitalists to Akron to spur investment

AKRON, Ohio - The government needs to work harder to bring investment into communities like Akron and Youngstown, which essentially feel like they’re on their own.

That’s the motivation behind a recent bus tour led by U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan D-Ohio and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., that brought a group of venture capitalists on a tour of Akron on Wednesday. The group spent the morning in Youngstown on the same mission.

“We know there is a sophisticated entrepreneurial spirit and business-savvy people and risk takers that just get locked out of investment capital,” Ryan said.

Connecting the investors with the community to establish trust and build relationships is key, he said. The investors combined make about $14 billion in investments, but so far, mostly in major cities. They’re backed such enterprises as SpaceX, Airbnb, Uber and Spotify.

Part of the goal is to draw investment to Northeast Ohio, but also show people from Silicon Valley that establishing offices here, or hiring skilled workers from this area could be lucrative, with the low cost of living.

“The companies they invest in are always looking for a place to grow,” Ryan said. “If an early stage company with 10 to 20 employees needs to grow, they can do that and put second office in Akron.”

The group met with Mayor Dan Horrigan, County Executive Ilene Shapiro and myriad entrepreneurs and business leaders.

During a roundtable discussion at Bounce Innovation Hub in downtown Akron, the investors learned about the “Retail Revival” online retail training program recently launched here and in Warren, Ohio, by eBay to help small and mid-sized business succeed.

They then toured several sites that exemplify community connectedness, including the Civic Gateway, Park East and Summit Lake. Those areas are focal points for the work of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, which won a $5 million Reimaging the Civic Commons grant to improve and connect those areas to downtown Akron through local partnerships.

Showing the Silicon valley representatives quality of life here was also part of the goal, Ryan said.

To that end, the tour made a stop at the new Northside Marketplace, an Akron-centric marketplace featuring more than 40 diverse start-ups and small business care collected in an indoor urban space at 21 Furnace St. The visitors saw popcorn vendors, craft beer bar and champagne bar and Akron Honey Company all under the same roof.

“This is a cool place,” he said. “Their workers would enjoy being here and working here because of the quality of life.”

The tour will also make stops in Detroit, Flint, Mich. and South Bend, Ind. Ryan would like to see the cities ban together to support one another.

“We need to combine forces to get the government working on out behalf to bring about change we need,” he said. “We’ve got to get all the communities to see they are not fighting a battle on their own, and Recognize we’re all in the same boat.”

Ryan said future bus tours are planned, and bus tours are planned to bring more venture capitalists to Akron.

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