AKRON-Once known as ``The Tire Capital of the World,'' Akron has watched three of its four major tire makers flee south. Firestone, Uniroyal Goodrich Tire and General are all gone. And with them the thousands of jobs they provided area residents.
It's not surprising, then, that many listened intently to Goodyear President and CEO Samir F. Gibara when he appeared at the Akron Roundtable luncheon May 16 to give his views on the relationships between companies and their home towns in the age of globalization.
``We believe in the competitive capability of our products, our associates and the communities-like Akron-in which we operate,'' Mr. Gibara proclaimed.
Frank Seiberling founded Goodyear in Akron 98 years ago, in part, because the area gave the company control over labor, materials, money and transportation, according to Mr. Gibara. And some of those assets continue to hold true today.
``Together, Goodyear and Akron have some substantial advantages over our respective competitors,'' he told the audience.
Among those advantages are a strong regional development board that can help businesses become globally competitive and a workforce with ``an exceptionally strong work ethic and high moral values,'' he said.
Still, the business world is changing rapidly as companies are faced with maintaining market share in mature economies in North America and Japan while developing new markets overseas.
``To suggest that globalization could be halted if companies were more compassionate, chief executives less zealous and the United States less committed to free trade, makes as much sense as an attempt to stop the industrial revolution 200 years ago,'' said Mr. Gibara, a Cairo, Egypt, native with 30 years of international business management experience.
In today's business environment, he said, it is the responsibility of both Goodyear and Akron to develop the intelligent, informed, flexible workers needed to compete in the global marketplace.
``(Companies) can no longer consider themselves relieved of their obligation to their communities simply by making financial contributions to the local school, theater or hospital.
``They must bring the breadth of their globality to bear by sharing what they learn around the world with the sons and daughters of their communities,'' he said.
Failing to do so will handicap the future workforce, the community as a whole, and Goodyear itself, he said.
Goodyear also must financially support the local infrastructure, ``whether it be in the form of child care centers, education support, United Way contributions or other community needs that enhance the quality of life,'' he said.