Dozens of young Akron professionals are getting inspiration from another nearby city.

The Knight Foundation sponsored the "Akron2Pittsburgh" trip, modeled after an earlier one-day trip to Detroit.

Kyle Kutuchief, interim program director of the Knight Foundation in Akron, says he saw in Pittsburgh that small companies and businesses are important.

"The more of those you can get going, they add up really fast," Kutuchief tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "and then people are able to experiment and fail or succeed, and those who succeed can change neighborhoods."

Kutuchief says Pittsburgh and Akron share one goal...trying to get more people to live in the city.

He says Pittsburgh is economically vibrant and welcoming...and like Akron, those in Pittsburgh love sports, and have strong neighborhoods.

Published in Local
Wednesday, 08 April 2015 18:41

UA Gets Knight Foundation Grant

The Knight Foundation is putting up a quarter-million dollars to help new ideas grow at the University of Akron.

UA president Scott Scarborough says the $250,000 grant will help pay costs needed to implement new initiatives for the university's future.

"A lot of them are geared around affordability, connectedness to industry," Scarborough tells, "taking our educational experience and combining it with all the technologies of this current generation to make it meaningful and relevant."

Scarborough says the funding from the Knight Foundation is meant to help pay one-time costs needed to set new programs in place.


(Knight Foundation, news release) To help support the progress and growth of the University of Akron and advance its important role in keeping and attracting talented people in the city, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced $250,000 in funding to the university.

"The University of Akron plays an essential role in bringing talented people to the city and providing them with the connections and opportunities they need to stay," said Kyle Kutuchief, Knight Foundation interim program director for Akron. "At the same time, the university is at a pivotal moment in its development, with the emergence of new leadership and the promise of fresh ideas that will reenergize the institution as a place of excellence and growth. Supporting its success is important to the future of Akron."

"This support from Knight Foundation recognizes the strategic role the University of Akron plays in this regional economy," said University of Akron President Scott L. Scarborough. "Our strategic planning process incorporates feedback from students, faculty, staff and community leadership. The consensus is that we must focus our resources on areas of distinction: from polymers to applied politics, from dance to engineering, from scientific research to technology."

He added, "To be a great public university we must increase our investment in career-focused academic programs, applied and experiential learning, and outstanding leadership talent. The support will help us bring the best minds and wise counsel to help us execute bold and promising strategies."

Knight funding will support new plans to refine enrollment strategies, evaluate and improve organizational structures, and increase the university's visibility in Ohio and beyond. Additionally, the investment aims to help President Scarborough and his leadership team introduce new ideas that will contribute to the university's success and position it as a continuous source of new talent in Akron and the region.

Support for the University of Akron forms part of Knight Foundation's efforts in Akron to attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. Since 2008 Knight has invested more than $58 million in Akron, including a recent investment to 13 projects that support the city's success.

Published in Local

WAKR's Jasen Sokol fills in for Ray and brings in the Program Director of the Knight Foundation, Kyle Kutuchief. The Akron Night City's Challenge has announced their winners. Two projects from the Akron area are to receive part of five-million dollars. Kyle joins Jasen to talk about the winners and their projects.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

New trail construction at Cuyahoga Valley National Park will soon be under way thanks to $249,000 from the Knight  Foundation.

The award will fund construction, planning, and design work for the proposed trails.

The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park says the designs include the park's first off-road biking trail and other projects to increase community engagement and recreational opportunities.

Construction on the trails is set to begin this year. 

Published in Local
Monday, 12 January 2015 10:07

Knight Foundation Finalists Announced

Seven local projects made the cut for the 126 finalists in the Knight Foundation inaugural Knight Cities Challenge. The program targets innovative proposals in communities traditionally served by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight family was the driving force behind the Akron Beacon Journal. Winners will be announced this spring for a share of a $5 million dollar pool. 
- - -
(Knight Foundation) The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced 126 finalists in the first Knight Cities Challenge, a national call for new ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.
The challenge received more than 7,000 submissions. Submissions came from many public and government organizations, as well as design experts, urban planning organizations and individuals focused on making their cities more successful.
Each of the ideas focuses on one or more of three drivers of city success:
- Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest
- Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects and break down divides
- Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement
All 26 Knight communities are represented in the pool of finalists. An list of Akron winners is below. Winners, who will receive a share of $5 million, will be announced in spring 2015.
Akron, Ohio
- Akron League of Creative Interventionists Headquarters by the League of Creative Interventionists (Submitted by David Swirsky): Establishing a space for the creative community to hold meetings, workshops and programs, and brainstorm interventions designed to break down barriers between diverse populations.
- Better Block International Hostel and AirBnB by Team Better Block (Submitted by Jason Roberts): Strengthening the city’s sense of place by turning a vacant property into a cultural hub and hostel centered on a specific immigrant population.
- Chickadee Society (Submitted by Chris Horne): Fostering a love for Akron through a subscription service that delivers Rubber City goods and opportunities to enjoy area attractions and events.
- Downtown Babysitters (Submitted by Kurtiss Hare): Creating a new urban babysitting service in Akron to serve the needs of young talent and encourage more activity in Akron’s downtown core.
- Emerging City Leaders by Benwood Foundation (Submitted by Lori Quillen): Cultivating the next generation of civic leadership through cross-sector exchange between young leaders in Akron and Chattanooga, Tenn.
- Flashbulb by Bettie Street Block Watch and the University of Akron (Submitted by Carolyn Behrman): Taking the energy of Akron’s PorchRokr festival to diverse neighborhoods by creating a mobile entertainment vehicle to travel around the city hosting festive gatherings where people transform vacant lots into flower gardens.
- Weekend Student Popup Space by Kent State University and the University of Akron (Submitted by Kate Harmon): Creating a student-run pop-up space that will serve as a meeting spot for the community, spark collaboration and help launch young entrepreneurs.
Published in Local

The program director of Akron's Knight Foundation is leaving after five months for a new role in Detroit.

Josh McManus is heading back to Detroit for an unspecified role at Rock Ventures, the Detroit companies headed by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Kyle Kutuchief has been named as interim program director.

The Knight Foundation has announced more than $1.8 million in new funding for 13 projects it says is "aimed at attracting and keeping talented people" in Akron, and expanding economic opportunity.


(Knight Foundation, news release) AKRON, Ohio — Jan. 5, 2015 —The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced more than $1.8 million in new funding to 13 projects aimed at attracting and keeping talented people in the city and expanding economic opportunity.

The foundation also announced that Kyle Kutuchief, an Akron native and talent and community engagement specialist, will join Knight as interim program director in Akron effective immediately. Current Akron program director Josh McManus will be leaving to join Rock Ventures, the Detroit-based family of companies headed by Quicken Loans founder and chairman, and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

"The projects receiving funding will help strengthen Akron's future; each carries with it a vital ingredient for city success," said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. "They will strengthen Akron's community of civic innovators, who are creating incentives for young talent to stay and build roots in Akron and providing people of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to pursue their ideas and contribute."

Led by a range of community development organizations, many of the projects focus on supporting emerging leaders and entrepreneurs, while creating more options for residents to connect. They address a growing need to reverse the city's steady population decline by focusing on quality of life improvements intended to attract and retain talent, and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs and individuals to pursue fresh ideas.

"I've known and lived in this community most of my life and know that Akron is poised to regain population and improve its quality of life," said Kutuchief. "These grants support strong Akron leadership. The projects we're supporting lay the path for a strategic focus on problem-solving, engaging many leaders in our community and presenting opportunities for meaningful partnerships. I'm thrilled for the opportunity to serve my hometown in this capacity."

The organizations receiving support include:

* Akron Development Corp. ($25,000): To support planning and research at the new Bits and Atoms Innovation Center, a maker and product commercialization space in the heart of downtown.

* Akron-Summit County Public Library ($190,000): To create a multiuse space at the library to support emerging entrepreneurs, maker activities, digital media creation and community meetings.

* Asian Services in Action ($100,000): To facilitate innovative lending programs, including peer lending circles and micro-loans for entrepreneurs in the city's Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.

* Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway ($150,000): To restore a baggage car to expand the Bike Aboard program at Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway.

* Downtown Akron Partnership ($249,000): To improve the capacity and impact of Downtown Akron Partnership, an organization that promotes the building of a vibrant downtown Akron.

* Economic and Community Development Institute ($250,000): To accelerate the institute's small loan lending and technical assistance programs within the city to support entrepreneurs and neighborhood businesses.

* Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park ($249,000): For construction of trails, including the park's first mountain biking trail.

* Greater Akron Amenities ($75,000): To study and assess Akron's potential and challenges for growth and develop strategies to attract and retain young talent.

* Hunter Franks ($96,200): To continue work by Hunter Franks that began last year, supporting public art and creative placemaking projects that contribute to city vibrancy.

* Ohio & Erie Canalway ($249,900): To support a planning process to increase public use of the Ohio & Erie Canalway (towpath trail) in downtown Akron; the process will be led by the design firm Alta and engage the public in building ideas.

* Team Better Block ($52,083): To continue work by Team Better Block in Akron, engaging leaders, residents and recent immigrants to improve their neighborhoods through immediate redevelopment and placemaking projects.

* Torchbearers ($65,000): To take members of Torchbearers, which supports young emerging leaders, on field trips to two cities that are taking action to transform their communities; based on lessons learned, members will then have the opportunity to apply for mini grants to build out ideas to improve Akron.

* Urban League ($50,000): To introduce teenagers and young adults to entrepreneurial skills and thinking by expanding existing programs.

Kutuchief's appointment as Knight's interim program director is effective immediately. He will oversee current and new grants, and will work with local leaders and other community members to find and invest in ideas that contribute to Akron's success. Kutuchief has worked with Knight Foundation as a consultant on talent strategy and community engagement since September.

Civic engagement in Akron has been a primary focus of Kutuchief's career. In 2014, he served as president of Torchbearers, a young professionals organization aimed at leadership development, community service and talent attraction and retention. Under his leadership, the organization created and implemented new talent development initiatives including Intern Edge, Connect2Akron and Akron2Detroit.

Previously Kutuchief worked as director of development for the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron. He also worked at Collaborent Group's Sourcing Office, a government organization that supports group purchasing programs in the public sector, and the University of Akron.

Kutuchief earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ohio State University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Akron.

McManus will take on his new role in Detroit, where he previously founded the D:hive, a place-based talent retention and attraction storefront in Detroit; and helped reshape the strategy for the city's New Economy Initiative, a $100 million entrepreneurship and innovation effort.

"The unexpected opportunity to return to work in Detroit at this particular moment in the city's history was too meaningful to me, personally, to turn down, though the decision was made difficult by my growing appreciation for Akron's potential and future," McManus said.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.


Published in Local

The Knight Foundation is putting up $5 million to fund great ideas to improve Akron and other cities the foundation benefits. Josh McManus joined Jasen to explain what the foundation is looking for, how to apply, and why he thinks some of the best ideas will involve Downtown Akron and vacant storefronts.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 12:36

Knight Foundation Resignation

The Knight Foundation's Jennifer Thomas is moving on.  She's been a fixture in Akron since 2010, overseeing Knight-funded projects and otherwise being engaged in the community, but Thomas says she's leaving the Knight Foundation this month. 

It sounds like she might be involved in some similar projects, but from a different perspective.  Thomas will be coaching companies on community investment.  She noted in a blog post that announced her resignation the amount of private investment that is being made in cities.

Published in Local

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- A foundation with ties to northeast Ohio has awarded a $75,000 grant to back a Cleveland-Akron film festival collaboration.......

Published in Local

A big new grant received by the Akron Art Museum is aimed at helping them bring in a new audience.

The Beacon Journal reports the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is giving the museum $750,000. The money will help pay for six exhibits over the next three years. some of which will be designed with the public's help. The first of those exhibits - called Real/Surreal - is on display now.

The museum will also use some of the money to continue providing digital resources. A previous Knight Foundation grant also funded the museum's online initiatives. The building built for the museum in 2007 was also funded by the Knight Foundation.

The multi-year grant is nearly three quarters the amount of all grants and donations raised by the museum in all of last year.

On the Web:

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