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ADF 15th Annual Meeting

By RUTH LANG, The Review Published: September 24, 2014 3:00AM

The 15th annual meeting of Alliance Area Development (AAD) was a celebration of connections and community.

The event, held Tuesday at the Alliance Country Club, was promoted as a networking and social event with updates from the organization, and attendees agreed the night fit the bill.

"It's nice Alliance is such a small town. You can really get to know people at events like this," said Scott Carpenter, an employee at American Recycling Services of Ohio, adding he was able to talk with a representative of First National Bank about financing for a potential future expansion.

AAD President Tom Pukys said the organization received more than 100 reservations for the event that provided "a change of pace" and "an opportunity to really get all our stakeholders together -- community leaders -- (and) network to talk about the things we have going on in our community."

Toward the end of the event, he interrupted the socializing to share about one of his three passions: economic development.

"There's really some special things that are happening in our community," he said, reviewing the role of an economic developer and emphasizing the four strategies -- community-building, place-oriented, business-oriented and workforce development -- being implemented for economic development in Alliance.

As part of its community-building initiative, AAD has embarked on a two-year branding campaign through Full Spectrum Marketing with the city and the Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce, Pukys said, with the intent to tell "great stories," empower the community and harness social capital.

Infrastructure improvements are in the works and underway as part of the place-oriented strategy, he said, citing recent demolitions paving the way for redevelopment; brownfield site developments; building investments and improvements from the University of Mount Union, Alliance Community Hospital and Stark State College; the ongoing Gateway project; and the Union Avenue Corridor project planned to "clean up" the area.

Pukys said the city is already implementing a business-oriented strategy with the many organizations, such as AAD, the Stark Development Board, the Small Business Development Center and the TA2 business incubator, available to provide financial and technical support to businesses.

Workforce development also continues with educational and other institutions, such as the Alliance Career Centre, Stark State College and Ohio Means Jobs, that can train residents in basic employment skills, he said.

"It's collectively, everybody working together ... supporting these initiatives (and) making this happen and truly driving us. Collectively, we are very organized, and we're all moving forward together," Pukys summarized.

Also during the evening, Alliance Community Hospital CEO Stan Jonas presented AAD officials with a $10,000 check with proceeds collected from the hospital's charity golf outing.

"Thanks for coming tonight to celebrate our 15th anniversary," Pukys concluded. "A lot of economic development organizations or grassroots organizations like this have trouble sustaining, but because of all the partners we have and all the people that support this, we're still kicking."

Huntington Bank, MAC Trailer, Robertson Heating Supply, Morgan Engineering Systems, Enviroscapes, Lavery Automotive and the University of Mount Union sponsored the event.

@RLang_AR on Twitter