Alliance Area Development celebrates 20 years

Alliance Area Development (AAD) celebrated 20 years in the community at its annual meeting Tuesday evening at the Alliance Country Club.

Todd Pugh, chair of the AAD Board, welcomed the more than 120 guests and thanked them for their involvement in the area’s economic development efforts.

Harry Paidas, interim president of AAD, traced the history of the organization and presented a 10-minute video, produced by Frank Greiner of HDWerks.

Paidas also presented the proposed Alliance Employment Promise, which, when implemented, will provide employees of Alliance Area Development's voting member businesses, who work in Alliance, exclusive benefits. These benefits will include subsidized childcare support at approved childcare facilities, tuition breaks at Mount Union and Stark State for qualified students, on-site healthcare and healthcare through telemedicine, preferred rates on mortgage and auto loans and city tax breaks.

As the evening progressed, several historical highlights were noted:

Early in 1999 a small meeting at Taster’s Choice Cafe that included then-Mayor Judy Carr, safety service director John Snyder and community leaders Rick Sherer and John Christian led to formalizing an economic development group in Alliance.

According to John Christian, there was a feeling that Alliance was not getting the attention it deserved and it was important to get local civic leaders together to form an organization.

In May a breakfast meeting at the Alliance Country Club introduced local businesses to the concept of an economic development organization that became the Alliance Area Development Foundation, AADF.

In September, the first AADF board meeting took place. What followed was nothing short of miraculous:

  • $535,000 was raised — more than $100,000 above goal
  • 27 board members were seated
  • A 501c3 designation was secured
  • The code of regulations was created

Several committees followed with various functions. Key players included past presidents of the Chamber of Commerce under the direction of Connie Pyers and prominent banker Larry Pyers, who was eventually named chairman of the executive committee.

A key component in those early years was fundraising, which was led by the marketing expertise of Dick Elliott who had spent his life in media work.

The fundraising group generated the enthusiasm needed and Mount Union President Harold Kolenbrander, who spoke at the kickoff breakfast, was the catalyst for bringing town and gown together.

The first person hired was Pam Richardson, who was charged with being office manager and helping organize the group. After a lengthy search, Mike Campbell became the first president in 2000.

The First Annual meeting was held in 2000 and the mission and objectives were established.

Perhaps the highlight of the last 20 years was the announcement that the westside industrial and commercial park using the property owned by entrepreneur Jim Stout, who founded Coastal Pet Products, would become a desirable location for area manufacturers and businesses. 

Robertson's, Terry’s Tire Town, Trilogy and Winkle located their headquarters during the early 2000s as the area continued to grow. On the east side of town, Morgan Engineering, under the leadership of Mark Fedor, was expanding.

Meanwhile, AAD underwent a leadership shift and Tom Pukys was hired to replace Mike Campbell as the organization’s president.

In the ensuing years, AAD expanded and broadened its reach:

  • Management of the city’s Greater Alliance Development Corporation
  • Initiated a successful revolving loan fund for start-up businesses
  • Expanded membership
  • Expansion of new industry
  • Work force development
  • Working closely with the Chamber and city government

A close working relationship with city government and the Chamber has been a key to the success of AAD.

AAD also forged stronger relationships with the Stark Development Board (SDB) headed by Steve Paquette. Collaboration became a key component to AAD’s success. AAD has successfully collaborated with Stark County on several projects, and currently enjoys exchanging information with Ray Hexamer, who chairs SDB, and the resources they provide. 

AAD also became active in marketing the area, launching an extensive “Make It Yours” Campaign to build pride in those who are here and attempt to attract new industry.

In 2014 Pam Richardson retired as the office manager and was replaced by Lidia DeGrange. Pukys served the organization well until 2017 when he left to take a position with Wayne County.

In the ensuing months, Harry Paidas was hired to serve as interim director and, with the board, developed a strategic plan and marketing plan to set the tone for the future.

The four components of the current strategic plan bear similarities to the original objectives:

  • Increased communication
  • Workforce development
  • Retention and expansion of business and industry in the Alliance area
  • Focused marketing plan

The year 2019 has been a landmark year for AAD and its members. In addition to AAD celebrating 20 years, Morgan Engineering celebrated 150 years, Coastal Pet Products celebrated 50 years, Robertson’s celebrated 85 years, MAC Trailer celebrated 25 years and the Greater Alliance Foundation, the community’s philanthropic gem, celebrated 20 years.

As AAD celebrates its 20 years, it can be proud of its accomplishments.

From a four-person meeting at Taster's Choice in the late 1990s to a vital force in economic development in the region, AAD has thrived and will continue to thrive into the foreseeable future.