Summit County’s largest employer, Summa Health System, keeps growing despite local hospital competition and health-reform challenges.
Employment at Summa — including its Akron City Hospital and SummaCare insurance units — reached 7,400 in Summit County by the end of last year, according to the Beacon Journal’s annual largest-employer survey.
Two other health-care employers — Akron General Health System and Akron Children’s Hospital — also have long been on the Beacon Journal’s list of largest employers in the county. So it’s no surprise that state figures have long shown the county’s biggest employment sector is health care.
Summa spokesman Michael Bernstein said the gain of more than 400 jobs at Summa was attributable to the growth of the hospitals’ physician practice arm and the opening of the stand-alone emergency department in Green in 2012. Summa is among the top 20 employers in Northeast Ohio, and it includes Barberton and St. Thomas hospitals, as well as other businesses.
Summa’s hometown competitor Akron General, meanwhile, saw a slight decline in jobs in 2013, as it laid off employees in two rounds of cuts. It ended the year with 3,639 jobs, down roughly 240 from the prior year.
Summa’s growth came despite layoffs there also. Health systems throughout Northeast Ohio and across the country are slashing budgets in anticipation of looming changes from federal health-care reform.
This year’s largest-employer survey and state job-count figures also reveal:
• Total employment at Summit’s 19 largest public and private-sector employers grew little last year, increasing by slightly more than 100 workers.
The Beacon Journal’s survey included private companies as well as public agencies, such as the City of Akron and the University of Akron, that employ more than 1,000. Employers were asked to provide a count of full-time and part-time staff or a “full-time equivalent” jobs number that includes both full- and part-time workers.
• After Summa, the employer showing the biggest growth in number of jobs last year was Akron-headquartered Sterling Jewelers Inc., operator of the Kay and Jared retail jewelry chains. Company spokesman David Bouffard said employment grew because of the 2012 purchase of Ultra Stores Inc., a chain of outlet mall jewelry stores and “to support overall business needs.” Sterling parent Signet Jewelers Ltd. purchased Ultra Stores of Chicago for $57 million. Last week, Sterling’s corporate parent Signet Jewelers Ltd. said it planned to buy key rival Zale Corp., headquartered in Irving Texas, in a deal valued at $1.4 billion.
• Overall employment in Summit totaled 257,477 for the second quarter of 2013, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. That was up about 460 workers from the 257,014 in the second quarter of 2012. Retail, finance and insurance, and hospitality (food and lodging) sectors each grew by more than 300 workers.
High rate of growth
• Acme Fresh Markets, headquartered in Akron, saw one of the biggest percentage increases — about 12.2 percent — in employment last year, according to the Beacon Journal’s survey. The growth of more than 170 employees is due in large part to expansions at Acmes in Cuyahoga Falls and the Montrose area of Bath. A larger Falls store replaced an existing store at the State Road site. The Montrose location grew to a total of more than 100,000 square feet.
• Goodyear remained the county’s largest manufacturer on the list, primarily because of the number of white-collar employees at its corporate campus, rather than the number of blue-collar workers. Goodyear provided the same estimate of employees — 3,000 — that it has since at least 2007.
• Companies that recorded employment declines included Diebold Inc., the maker of ATMs and security systems that is working to turn around its business; and Babcock & Wilcox Co., the Charlotte, N.C., energy company that has operations in Barberton.
Diebold, headquartered in Green, trimmed its staffing by more than 100 workers through layoffs and by offering early retirements. Babcock & Wilcox’s Summit employment dropped by about 170 workers because of a combination of attrition, transfers of employees to other locations and layoffs. The layoffs “were necessary to align the size of our workforce to our work load in 2013,” said spokesman Ryan Cornell in an email.
City of Akron gain
• The ranks of government sector workers continued to shrink, according to the state figures. However, the Beacon Journal’s survey shows that last year the City of Akron gained 77 full-time employees, for a total of 1,802 full-time workers. Summit County government, meanwhile, shed relatively few workers.
Akron Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson said an increase in the number of firefighters — paid for with a federal grant — helped to boost overall city full-time employment.
• The names on the list of the county’s largest private and public-sector employers were essentially unchanged from recent years and boast nationally known companies headquartered in Summit, such as Goodyear and fabric and craft retailer Jo-Ann Stores Inc.
Akron-headquartered bank holding company FirstMerit Corp. is on this year’s list after the company confirmed that it had approximately 2,000 employees in Summit County in 2013 and 2012. Last year, FirstMerit declined to provide a local employment figure.
Various national companies have large numbers of workers in Summit, but they are not on the Beacon Journal list, which ranks employers with 1,000 or more workers. Tire and rubber company Bridgestone Americas Inc. employed 780 at the end of 2013 at its Akron facilities. Bridgestone Americas is a division of Bridgestone Corp., based in Tokyo, Japan.
National retailers also have large numbers of workers in Summit. Target Corp., for example, employed nearly 800 full- and part-time workers in the county last year.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the state’s largest private employer, with more than 50,000 full- and part-time employees. Walmart does not provide local employment counts so it is not on the list. However, the retailer likely employs more than 1,000 full- and part-time workers in Summit, based on the number of Walmarts in the county.
Last year, PepsiCo Inc. reported that its Summit County workforce totaled about 600. The company operates a production plant in Twinsburg and a Frito-Lay snack distribution center in Green.
Some don’t disclose
Some large privately held employers with significantly large workforces are not on the list because they do not disclose staffing information. Those include GOJO Industries Inc., the Akron maker of Purell hand sanitizer and other hygiene products. While a Summit number is not available, chairman and CEO Joe Kanfer has said that the company has 1,600 employees in the United States, the majority being at the Akron headquarters and Cuyahoga Falls manufacturing facility.
Privately held Summit Racing Equipment of Tallmadge, which bills itself as the world’s largest direct marketer of automotive performance equipment, does not reveal its Summit employment. But Tallmadge city officials estimated more than 10 years ago the companny had more than 700 employees at its large facility visible from Interstate 76.
Meanwhile, a national company in the headlines, Time Warner Cable Inc., has a sizable workforce — numbering 567 employees — in Summit. Comcast Corp. of Philadelphia is making a takeover offer for Time Warner Cable, headquartered in New York City, for about $159 a share, merging the largest two U.S. cable companies. Time Warner Cable’s Akron-based division serves customers in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and is the third-largest unit of the company.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.