Travelers are one stop away from anywhere in the world at Akron-Canton's very own airport; Work is now under way to revolutionize the passenger experience.
Akron-Canton Airport President & CEO Ren Camacho speaks at many community gatherings. When he says, "This is your airport," he means it.
According to Chapter 308 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Akron-Canton Airport (CAK), 5400 Lauby Road in North Canton, truly is the community's airport.
CAK, which opened in 1946 and added a new terminal in 1962, is jointly operated by Stark and Summit counties. It's governed by a regional airport authority made up of local professionals from multiple areas of expertise.
"We listen to our community and watch for trends," Camacho said. "We adjust to accommodate the changing needs of businesses and individuals here."
Why would anyone in Stark County want to use someone else's airport?
There are more nonstop flights in Cleveland, Columbus and Pittsburgh, but there also are some inconveniences.
CAK's Director of Marketing and Air Service Development Lisa Dalpiaz said the airport's convenience and amenities make it a smart choice.
"You don't need to travel over an hour to get to an airport," Dalpiaz said. "It takes less time to get here, park, go through the ticket wing and TSA checkpoint, and get on your flight."
Even if there's a layover, travelers can still save time and money flying CAK.
"The airlines control pricing of the flights, but we're comparable," Camacho said. "When factoring in time savings and convenience, we're often the best option."
American Airlines offers nonstop flights to Chicago O'Hare, New York, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. Delta offers nonstop service to Atlanta.
Spirit has nonstop flights to Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers. And United offers nonstop service to Chicago O'Hare, Newark and Houston.
"From Australia to South America, we're one stop from just about anywhere in the world," Camacho said.
An airport is the first and last representation of a community for travelers.
"We're investing to create a welcoming first impression of Stark County for travelers," he said.
About $140 million has been invested in capital projects at CAK in the past 10 years, including a $34 million gate modernization program now under way.
CAK is creating bright, open spaces with ample seating and abundant power outlets. New food and beverage options will include a sit-down restaurant and large bar within the gate area, in addition to grab-and-go options like Cinnabon and Arby's.
Conveniences include the free business lounge, mother's room and kid's play area. New features include a pet-relief area.
The terminal makeover also includes jet bridges on every gate so passengers won't need to make the quick dash from tarmac to aircraft in inclement weather.
There will be a total of nine gates when the modernization is complete next year, with the ability to open two additional gates based on demand.
More than 3,000 people are employed at the airport, directly and indirectly.
Local, state, federal sales and excise tax revenues from CAK total more than $50 million annually.
A self-sustaining entity, CAK has more than a $500 million impact on our local economy.
Examples include local companies working on the gate modernization project such as Great Lakes Construction, Hilscher-Clarke Electrical Contractors and Engineers, Knoch Corp., R.T. Hampton Plumbing & Heating, SoL Harris/Day Architecture and Speelman Electric.
While passenger traffic has dropped off a bit since 2014, Camacho says there are reasons to be optimistic.
People from as far away as Columbus, Pittsburgh and Sandusky frequently use CAK. Within a 90-mile radius, there are 4.6 million potential flyers.
There's also a robust corporate environment near the airport, with companies including Diebold Nixdorf, Goodyear, Timken, TimkenSteel and JM Smucker headquartered locally. Plus, the Hall of Fame Village and local oil and gas businesses are expected to boost travel.
"We know our niche and we can co-exist with some of the larger nearby airports," Camacho said. "We're positioning ourselves to take advantage when air travel rebounds."
Dalpiaz said communication is key for the airport.
"We need to keep open lines of communication with local businesses, the airlines and our community," she said.
CAK loves to give back to the community. In October, the airport will host a 5k run with proceeds being donated the MAPS museum and Akron Children's Hospital. The airport also hosts mom's tours and conducts business travel forums for small and medium-sized companies.
Airport personnel are well prepared for anything that might come along -- from inclement weather to potential emergencies. They work with local first-responders to put safety as a top priority.
It's likely there will always be a need for air travel.
And Akron-Canton Airport will continue to invest in making travel as convenient as possible for the residents of Stark County.