The Greater Akron Chamber has a new strategy to help grow the regional economy as well as the organization.

The “strategy blueprint” was unveiled Thursday night before about 900 people at the chamber’s 112th annual meeting at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.

The blueprint reflects the changes taking place in the area as well as in the chamber’s mission to help local businesses, Steve Millard, who nine months ago became the organization’s president and chief executive officer, said prior to the meeting.

“We are laying the foundation for the work we need to do,” Millard said. “We can’t wait to write a perfect plan. You need flexibility in everything you are doing.”

This new chamber initiative succeeds its previous Advance Greater Akron program. The plan incorporates significant parts of the “Elevate Greater Akron” program that the chamber, Akron and Summit County governments developed last year to help the region grow, thrive and include all residents in economic opportunities.

Millard said that the chamber’s role is akin to being the “pit orchestra” for Elevate Greater Akron.

The months of work that went into the new chamber blueprint identified the organization’s core competencies, he said.

Millard said the chamber will pursue four strategies to support companies and the region:

• Grow company revenue, capital investment and jobs by leading targeted business retention and expansion efforts.

• Create advantages for small- and middle-market businesses by connecting them to customers, capital, content and support.

• Advance economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion to accelerate growth and success of companies.

• Drive employee-focused solutions to critical skills gaps.

The blueprint also calls for:

• Identify 160 target companies to closely follow. The chamber also will establish a “25 to watch” list of emerging and smaller start-up companies.

• “Storytelling” that includes the creation of the Greater Akron Business Media Center, a business digital asset library, and producing 300 stories about companies and resources in Greater Akron over three years, including highlighting diversity and inclusion initiative successes.

• “Convene and facilitate” industry sector roundtables to identify trends, needs, opportunities and best practices, and serve as the project manager for Elevate Greater Akron.

• “Distinctive member resources” to help companies, including growing a small business health benefits program and creating a “Diverse Supplier Matchmaker” program.

“This only works if our members get actively involved,” Millard said.

The Greater Akron Chamber needs to create connections, energy and support for businesses that can’t do some of that on their own, he said.

Diversity and inclusion are a big part of the strategy, Millard said.

For example, the chamber recently moved into the AES building at 388 S. Main St. and is seeking minority contractors and suppliers to help build its new office space, Millard said.

Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ