Adele Dorfner Roth shows exactly how a diverse city government can help spur economic growth. She came to the United States from Brazil as a small child when her father, an engineer, was hired by Mohawn, the Akron-based tire company. “He’s a huge risk taker,” Roth says. “Like most immigrants, he left everything behind. That kind of person is not a wall flower.” It was only a matter of time, then, before Roth’s father started his own business. It was called the Akron Tire Engineering and Machinery Company, and it helped tire plants around the globe upgrade and resell their equipment.
Having children and raising them in Akron, made me realize that my roots are here.
Roth, meanwhile, trained as an economist at the University of Akron and eventually became the company’s CFO, orchestrating deals and helping to turn it into a million-dollar enterprise. Her training and experience piqued the interest of Akron’s then-mayor, Don Plusquellic, who was devising new economic development strategy for the city. Akron had recently abandoned a plan to lure in business from nearby communities. “It seemed like a zero sum game,” Roth explains, because it essentially stripped another American community of its economic potential. The solution, then, was to bring in business from abroad. “And since I’d been traveling to different countries, it made a lot of sense having somebody who understood international trade and cultures. I also speak three languages very well: Portuguese, English, and French.”
In 2006, Roth joined the Department of Economic Development, where she identified companies eager to enter the U.S. market. “Their products could be manufactured here and create jobs here,” she says. “They may start small, but eventually they’ll hit a critical mass. We’ve seen it happen.”
Today, she continues this work as Deputy Director of Planning and Urban Development. For her, increasing Akron’s economic potential isn’t an abstraction. “My parents really think of Akron as home,” she says. “Having children and raising them in Akron, made me realize that my roots are here. I want this city to be a place where my daughters want to be. Nothing drives me more than that.”