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Presentation Title: Elevate Akron - Embracing the New Economic Development Fundamentals

October 29, 2018
Luncheon sponsored by:

Luncheon Menu

Entrée: Tender braised beef served over creamy polenta with spinach and feta.

Vegetarian/Vegan/GF: Grilled Portobello mushroom served over creamy polenta with spinach

about the speaker

Driven by a realization that Greater Akron can more effectively pursue economic opportunities and address challenges by first understanding the fundamental changes in our economic structure, the City of Akron, County of Summit, and the Greater Akron Chamber came together in late 2017 to develop a blueprint for a high-functioning economic development ecosystem. With support from GAR Foundation, these partners and many others have committed to working together on the new fundamentals of economic development that will Elevate Akron

We invite you to join us in the first public presentation of the Elevate Akron strategy to a special convening of the Akron Roundtable.  The partners will review the findings of their work and outline the five strategies the partners will be collaboratively pursuing in support of the growth and success of Greater Akron.

Please join us as

Jason Dodson, Chief of Staff to Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro
James Hardy, Chief of Staff, City of Akron 

Steve Millard, President & CEO, Greater Akron Chamber

Christine Mayer, President, GAR Foundation (moderator)

share their work and their plans to Elevate Akron.


Jason D. Dodson, Esq.

Chief of Staff to Summit County Executive, Ilene Shapiro

The County of Summit, Ohio

Jason D. Dodson, Esq. serves as Chief of Staff for Summit County Executive, Ilene Shapiro.  Mr. Dodson was appointed to that position in December 2008, and has served continuously in that capacity under Executive Shapiro (2016 to present) and the late County Executive Russell M. Pry (2008 to 2016).  Prior to being appointed Chief of Staff, Mr. Dodson served as Assistant Director of Law and Risk Management for the County Executive’s Office.

In his capacity as Chief of Staff, Mr. Dodson serves as the chief operating officer for the County Executive’s Office, leading approximately 675 employees, implementing a County operating budget in excess of $525 million and overseeing the Departments of Administration and Public Information, Law and Risk Management, Finance and Budget, Community and Economic Development, Human Resources, Administrative Services, Medical Examiner, Sanitary Sewer Services and Job and Family Services.  Mr. Dodson also plays a lead role for the County in regional economic development efforts, and served as the County’s lead negotiator on key projects such as the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s Global and North American Headquarters and Innovation Center, Bridgestone America’s Technical Center and the renovation of the Firestone Triangle Building into the Russell M. Pry Building.  He also serves as the Executive’s liaison to the Summit County Council and is the office’s principal point of contact for other County offices and political subdivisions.

Prior to his roles at the County, Mr. Dodson was engaged in the private practice of law at the firm of Cassetty, Muse and Pry, specializing in municipal, employment, corporate, estate planning and probate law.  He graduated with honors from the University of Akron with a Bachelor’s of Science in political science, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law.  Mr. Dodson is licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Mr. Dodson has served in several civic and community roles, including as a Councilman, Planning Commission Member, Board of Zoning Appeals Member and Charter Review Commission Member in the Village of Mogadore, Board Member for the International Soap Box Derby, Member of the United Way of Summit County’s Public Policy Committee and Community Impact Task Force, and President of the Port-Summit Rotary.  He is currently a designee for the Summit County Executive for the Summit County Land Bank Board and the Summit County Information Technology Board.

Mr. Dodson has been recognized as a graduate of Leadership Akron, a recipient of the Greater Akron Chamber’s 30 for the Future Award, and as Young Democrat of the Year for the Summit County Democratic Party.

Mr. Dodson resides in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Stephanie, and three step-sons, Jacob, Grayson and Matthew.

James J. Hardy

Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development

Chief of Staff

City of Akron

James J. Hardy previously served as Assistant Director of Community Health at Summit County Public Health.  There he led the Health Equity and Social Determinants Unit, managing a diverse portfolio of community-based programs and public health services. 

Prior to that, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Board of Trustees of Kent State University, as a Regional Director for Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, and as an Executive Office Intern for Former U.S. President Bill Clinton. 

In 2005, Hardy was elected to the Akron Public Schools Board of Education.  During his six years on the Board he served as chair of several committees, including the Joint Board of Review and the district’s Finance and Capital Management Committee, which oversees Akron Public School’s $313 million general fund budget.  In 2009, his peers elected him as Board President. 

Hardy holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science-Criminal Justice from the University of Akron, and a Master’s in Public Health from Kent State University with a concentration in Health Policy and Management. 

A lifelong resident of Akron, he is involved in various community organizations including service on the board of Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative (CANAPI).  He is a past recipient of the Greater Akron Chamber’s 30 For the Future Award (2011).”


Steve Millard, CCE

President and CEO

Greater Akron Chamber

Steve Millard is President & CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber and in that role is responsible for leading the Greater Akron Area’s Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce serving Medina, Portage and Summit Counties.  Steve’s work is focused on the chamber’s efforts to drive jobs and investment in the Greater Akron region, improve the region’s competitiveness and to advocate for the needs of the business community in the region with its elected and appointed officials.

Prior to joining the Greater Akron Chamber, Steve has served as Executive Vice President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership; President and Executive Director of COSE (the Council of Smaller Enterprises); as a supply chain management consultant with Accenture (at that time Andersen Consulting) and as a supply chain specialist with GE Healthcare (at that time GE Medical Systems). 

Steve is a certified chamber executive, serves on several not for profit and for profit boards and is a frequent adviser to businesses and a regular facilitator for strategic planning and leadership team retreats.

Steve has a BS in Transportation and Distribution Management and a BS in Finance from Syracuse University and his MBA from Case Western Reserve University. 


Christine Amer Mayer


GAR Foundation

Christine Amer Mayer is president of GAR Foundation. Mayer guides the foundation’s strategic direction and annual grantmaking which focuses heavily on education and economic development.

An Akron native, Mayer practiced commercial litigation and business law for eight years with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs in its Columbus, Cleveland, and Akron offices. She joined GAR Foundation in 2001 as a program officer. She was named president of the foundation in 2012.

Mayer presently chairs the United Way of Summit County, where she has helped to transform the organization’s business model to a focus on four Bold Goals. She also serves as secretary of ArtsNow, a sector-strengthening organization that connects the arts to community in Summit County. Mayer is a member of the Akron Growth Council, providing input on economic development matters for Akron’s Mayor Dan Horrigan. On a national level, Mayer is proud to serve as a trustee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Mayer has been named to the Inside Business Power 100 list of Most Influential Leaders five times and she has received the Women’s History Project of the Akron Area’s Woman of the Year award for her innovative efforts to strengthen the arts landscape in Akron.

Mayer received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Duke University and a law degree from The Ohio State University. Her happily chaotic household includes her daughters Julia and Elizabeth, her son Jimmy, and several spirited pets. When she is not spending time with her family or exploring Akron, she can be found hiking, bird-watching, listening to podcasts, or digging away in her reasonably productive vegetable garden.