Last week, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. announced it would keep its world headquarters in Akron and relocate to a new campus on Martha Avenue.
Its old headquarters will be turned into a retail, office, entertainment complex to be called Akron Riverwalk by developer Stuart Lichter's Industrial Realty Group (IRG) of California, which will also build the new headquarters building and lease it to Goodyear.
Robert Y. Bowman, the city of Akron's deputy mayor for economic development was deeply involved in the negotiations that led to the announcement of the $890 million project last week and he talks about the intricacies of the deal today.
Q:Did city officials ever truly believe that Goodyear would leave Akron?
A:It is one of those things who blinks first? The answer is, we understand there was legislation actually introduced in North Carolina to try to woo Goodyear away from here. We did not focus on that issue because of the way we got into this process. It was pretty clear we had to step up to the plate or they were gonna open up the options.
Q:Which city or state was Akron's biggest competitor?
A: It didn't get that far. . . . This was where Goodyear said frankly we have buildings that are way out of date, we have been talking internally about
needing a new corporate headquarters. IRG approached us, it accelerated the process. (They want to know) can we do it here in Akron or do we need to do it elsewhere? That's not traditionally how sometimes these deals approach us.
Q:How long were talks going on?
A:Months. . . . We've been looking at this a long time.
Q:What was the key to making this work for the city, state, Goodyear and Stuart Lichter?
A:The key is could the developer? Goodyear has a lot of properties in East Akron. Their need was how do we get out from under the burden of these properties and with IRG that became a possibility because they knew what to do with older properties and how to rehab them. It happened that you had the right people come together at the right time.
Q:How many acres are we talking about that Goodyear owns?
A:They have some 350 acres and about 280 some are part of this deal. They will still retain some of their properties for a variety of reasons.
Q:Has Goodyear committed to adding workers or to keeping the number of workers they currently have in Akron?
A:They have committed to the state of Ohio that they will retain 2,900 full-time employees, which is a requirement under the tax break they have negotiated with the state. They have approximately 3,000 full time now with another 500 contract employees now.
Q:Can you describe the moment you knew that the deal was done and Goodyear was staying?
A:We knew when Stu Lichter could feel comfortable with the deal that we have with IRG that he would be able to I think finalize the deal with Goodyear. It was one of those things you really don't know until the last minute. When they said we were making the announcement, we knew it was gonna be for real. Even the day of the announcement we were going, wow, we really pulled this off.
Q:As part of the deal, Goodyear's current headquarters and other property will be turned into Akron Riverwalk, a new commercial, retail, entertainment, and housing development. How many people do you believe could ultimately be employed in this development?
A:There have been figures when you take in all the consideration of Goodyear, the redevelopment area, all the retail and everything else, that could get as high as 12,000.
Q:What will become of Goodyear's big neon sign atop its present headquarters?
A:I don't know. (Goodyear spokesman Scott Baughman said it is not known at this time what will happen to the sign).