This article is written to convey personal beliefs, opinions and visions of and for the City of Barberton. Anything mentioned or referenced in this article is public knowledge.
Who Are We?
The City of Barberton needs to establish itself with an identity of who we want to be and who we are. The City of Barberton School system along with the 4 Cities Compact are bringing the foundation of the work ethic and jobs back to our community. These jobs are great and offer really good pay and quality of life. These jobs entail electricians, carpenters, welders and much more.
Over the last couple decades there was a push that everyone needed to go to college in order to be successful. This in my opinion was one of the worst things we could have done to our generation. What this push did was started slowly cutting away at the workforce of skilled labor. Some may argue that these are jobs of the past. This is not true and is that type of thinking of why our workforce is in a shortage of skilled workers.
The City of Barberton was built during an industrial time of history. It has survived with the same model for over a hundred years but ultimately industrial jobs are not in demand as they once was. These types of jobs are not gone but they no longer support a growing community by themselves.
The City of Barberton needs to reestablish themselves and create a new identity. We house BWXT here locally and they are a growing company but they only offer so many jobs. There is other smaller factories around town which are great as well.
I will bluntly say that these factories are sustainer and stabilizers economically but are not forward thinking in the sense I am referring to. They provide awesome jobs but if we as a city want to move forward we need to think forward. We have a solid base with these factories. It is time to be proactive instead of reactive. I feel the City of Barberton has been sitting and waiting for a business to expand or looking to relocate. This is an approach that I don’t feel comfortable with.
To move forward we MUST think forward
The header says it all. Recently I was approached by a man who said we need to push for industry with industry wages. Immediately, I took a look at him and seen that he was easily in his mid to late 50’s. He was not wrong but he was saying this referencing the past. This is how generations work. The older generations always talk about how their time was better and things need to go back to the way it was. Unfortunately, thinking backwards will produce backwards results.
In order to move forward I think the City of Barberton needs to think forward. This is something that I feel they have been failing at. To them, business is business but that train of thought is like placing a bet on an old horse. The question is then, how do we come up with a good business and economic plan? An answer to this can be simple and may be right in front of us.
We have a neighboring city that has embraced the thinking forward model and has grown above their own expectations. The City of Cleveland is a hub for technology and is gaining traction in the technology industry. We have the template in front of us to success with a tested and working model, let’s use it. It costs us nothing to be proactive if we do it with common sense.
Offer Startup Support
Currently, the City of Barberton does not provide any startup support for new technology companies/startups. In Cleveland there are groups like JumpStart that help with space, mentor and help companies launch successful businesses. Providing co-working space is also something that does not exist in the City of Barberton. Co-working offices offer all the amenities of a company and provide a diverse environment that promotes growth. A startup or small business can then pay $150-$200 a month for desk space.
The City of Barberton currently has 300+ properties on the books one way or another. Most are residential but some are commercial space. I would like to add at this point in time, some are commercial spaces that sit empty. The awesome thing about startups is they cost little to run but come with big potential.
I want to make this very clear that most startups fail. This is not a secret but if Cleveland wrote these startups off, I guarantee they would not be as successful.
Using Startups Technology
I use Cleveland as a success story because they implemented the ideas mention in this write-up. Sampling the Startups is a great way to advance with minimal funds and efforts. Startup companies are eager to succeed and they offer technology that is far beyond anything local Government will be able to provide. This may include an app or research and studies. The City of Cleveland often times holds contests for their local community to come up with a solution to an issue. These issues are usually something local.
I recall being invited to be on a team that was formed by local software developers, analytics and security experts. The contest was put on by a Great Lakes company on how to promote awareness about the water pollution of Lake Erie.
The City of Cleveland benefited from this contest and they did not put a dime towards it. They simply offered support and collaboration. They understood that printing fliers or posting on social media was not enough to address ever-changing issues. The winners of this contest were awarded $200k (federal money) and would be offer to work on other projects within the city. Ultimately an app and framework was developed that monitored the water in the Great Lakes using beacons and would give real-time pollution levels. This was all done with 2k in resources that was paid by the competitors of the program. The city was granted federal dollars to go towards the project. Now more than ever, people are aware and pollution has decreased.
The above story is just and explain of a real world example of when the City of Cleveland embraced startup technology.
If there is something the City of Barberton is good at, it is writing grants. I will not pretend that it is easy to write a grant but let’s put some possible numbers to this.
Let’s say that the City of Barberton launches a contest and invites startups to develop a cost-effective way monitor traffic on the towpath that runs through the town. Local companies then come in and start designing a product based on the contest requirements. Let’s make the goal to have a system in place that cost under 5K with no more than 1k operating costs per year and provides data of times attended, speed and actions of people using the parks and towpath. This ultimately will allow for more money to be allocated by the State of Ohio if we can show hard numbers.
This is as simple as it can be. The contest above is very feasible in my eyes and cost the city nothing. Once the contest is over and a winner is picked, they then become the contract holder while the City then can write grants based on the new advancements and information from the contest. The Startup now grows to become successful and the City of Barberton is now on the map as a place where they embrace technology.
It is a win/win and is a very workable and proven model.
Government is Slow and Problematic
As the owner of 3 small businesses I see there is a disconnect with local Government and businesses. I do not blame anyone but at the end of the day someone is responsible for the bad and good in the business economic atmosphere of the city. I often mention the Mayor’s position because ultimately the buck stops there. Even if the position tried everything they could and there is still failure, it is no ones fault but the vision or ability of the person holding that position.
I do not claim to know how to run a City but I do claim to know how business works. If one of my businesses failed and I tried everything I could to make it work, I still failed as an owner. I either did not have what it took or my plan and vision was wrong. It is very simple and it’s black and white. The only time it becomes complicated is when politics are involved.
Listening and Gauging as a City
The City of Barberton School District started a committee called the Key Communicators. This consists of business owners and managers in the local area. The goal of this committee is to communicate real world needs that are up-to-date. This information is then used to alter and tune education to meet the most recent demand of technology and standards.
To my knowledge, the City of Barberton does not have committee like this. They have the Chamber of Commerce but like anything else politics are involved. A committee should be composed of a full spectrum of business owners and managers. As the header suggests, Government is slow and is inherently reactive to things that go on. A committee would help the City see into the future of business, plans, needs, and expectations. In my opinion if all they do is simply listen to everyone, they will be able to gauge and adjust course (being proactive) with ever-changing business economics.
Barberton Politics Ruin Everything
One thing I have noticed personally is that the City of Barberton does not like to hear negativity and if they perceive you as a threat to anything, you will take a back seat to everything. Politics play a huge role in The City of Barberton and it is very annoying as a business. The City of Barberton will deny this but people are not blind.
This section is simply to hammer home that the City of Barberton needs to listen to everyone if they want to move forward. If the city officials truly had the city at heart, politics would be second to our community success. We need to create more transparency in everything. In my opinion, this will create better trust and will eliminate bias, unfair and in some cases unethical actions by groups or individuals.
We need to remove the stigma we have and that starts with blunt and straight forward conversations with those that have been behind the scenes when it comes to businesses new and old. Whether these people are friends, family members or long time position holders, they have to be looked at if we want to move forward.
There is no question that the City of Barberton needs a change in course when it comes to business economics. One business left Barberton and just like that 5-8% of annual income vanished.
The City of Barberton is not known for it technologically resources and this can change and bring millions of dollars back to the town with minimal workforce. A company of 10 in the technology field on a project can produce 10 billion dollars in revenue. Although extreme cases, look at SnapChat, WeWork, and Pinterest. Cleveland has Linestream, Streamlink, ViewRay and a ton more. They were given a chance when Cleveland welcomed them and now both Startup and City are BOOMING!
If the City of Barberton could even get a percentage of that kind of interests from tech companies, we as a city and community would benefit. I would love to see Barberton labeled a Smart city by 2023. Even if I have to attempt to make it happen by myself I will push my hardest. It would be so much better if the City embrace technology in a way that other Cities have.
Do you have any idea that you think would make Barberton a better place, let me know. I love to hear the good, bad, and ugly.