The day isn’t coming when Akron and Summit County can say the work of economic development and enhancing the quality of life is complete. The task never ends. What matters is the current path each is taking, and on Thursday, Ilene Shapiro delivered her assessment of where the county stands. Predictably, the executive was upbeat in her State of the County address. Most important, she had reason to be positive.

Consider the jail, a leading responsibility and expense of the county. The deep recession and its aftermath brought a prolonged squeeze to county finances, the situation aggravated by misguided decision-making at the Statehouse. In 2017, a jail operations advisory commission, led by David Hamilton of the County Council, began work on how to improve conditions at the facility. It made recommendations. Shapiro described the resulting success story.

Programs for inmates have been restored, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, plus church services, the gym and the library. More, the jail is safer for inmates and sheriff’s deputies with the addition of new cameras and a clever reclassification of the Glenwood facility, opening the way for an additional 18 deputies at the jail. As the executive noted, the move has reduced overtime costs, injury pay and sick time.

The benefits are not limited to inmates and deputies. The community as a whole is served when inmates have access to support that helps elevate their lives. It is encouraging, too, the county is seeking to get ahead of the challenge in one-third of deputies becoming eligible to retire this year and next. The county, via the Department of Job and Family Services, has launched a strong recruiting effort, joined by the sheriff’s office and the University of Akron.

Shapiro reminded that the county has the lowest sales tax rate in the state and operates at less per capita than the other five large counties. That kind of effective management is evident in the county joining with the cities of Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Green and Stow in a new computer-aided dispatch system, the projected cost-savings at $7 million the next five years.

County and city officials, plus the leadership of the Greater Akron Chamber and the GAR Foundation, delivered Elevate Akron last year, a coherent economic development model. Thus, it mattered that Shapiro reinforced the five “key strategies,” focusing on businesses already here (retention and expansion), on inclusion of the black community, investment downtown, entrepreneurial activity and becoming “more coordinated, strategic and research-driven.”

This should be the shared and enduring narrative. It helps that the executive, a year into the effort, had successes to tout, and not just Amazon landing in a big way at the former site of Rolling Acres Mall. She announced The Smithers Group will develop the Austen Biolnnovation Institute site into a new company headquarters downtown. She cited recent investment in hard-hit Barberton, the contribution of the nimble county Development Finance Authority and the Job Hubs concept, which aims to curb sprawl and expand access to employment.

These and other initiatives have given the city and county a certain momentum. They hardly erase the many challenges, including workforce shortcomings and a difficult stormwater problem that requires a broad and collective response. The city and county will not move forward as realistically hoped without UA making a recovery under new leadership, fulfilling its role as a source of talent and research, adding to the regional economy and quality of life.

That is another way of saying the work never ends. What can be achieved is moving in the right direction, as Ilene Shapiro described. Now it is about keeping it going.