Inventors Hall of Fame: A Real Hoot

I managed to run five miles both Saturday and Sunday. And better yet — I was able to get on my feet this morning and head for a boring spirited session on the elliptical trainer. Early morning TV news  on Mondays is a hoot. Essentially the same stories from Friday. And if there is actually a 24/7 news cycle on the cable networks it is only because every story is repeated hour after hour, day after day.

Here is a story from the Akron Beacon Journal on Saturday that you may have missed — and most likely could care less about. It appears that the National Inventors Hall of Fame is leaving Akron and relocating to an industrial park near Canton. This isn’t a “field of dreams” story. Trust me.

Here’s from the ABJ story:

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic reacted with anger to losing an organization that community leaders pursued for so long and in which they invested so much money.

”This community raised the capital to initiate this here in Akron. Kids raised pennies,” he said. ”It’s a slap in our face, a spit in the face, an insult to me personally.”

He said he learned about the move via a tip from a citizen and the city was not approached to help the organization find other quarters in Akron or even Summit County.

Community leaders spent seven years persuading the National Inventors Hall of Fame to relocate here from Washington, D.C. The city, Summit County, the state and private donors invested $38 million to build a futuristic glass museum and corporate office for the hall of fame at 221 S. Broadway in 1995.

Officials hailed the building — it became
known as Inventure Place — as a boon to tourism and to children trying to learn about science. But the plaques of inventors and the play area for children failed to muster much interest.

While 270,000 visitors toured Inventure Place in its first year, attendance dropped to less than 40,000 a year by the time the facility closed in April 2008.

Kind of sad actually. And I played a very small role in helping to attract the Inventors Hall of Fame to Akron by virtue of my association with BFGoodrich and its CEO at the time, John Ong. I also served as a volunteer spokesperson for the HOF at various times during its early days in Akron.

Some thoughts:

  • Attracting the HOF to Akron was a big idea that required considerable community leadership and involvement. It really is an example of what can be accomplished when you can harness the public and private leadership necessary and get everyone working toward a common goal.
  • It is also an example of how flawed a civic enhancement project can be — unless it has some basis in reality. Did anyone actually believe that more than 250,000 visitors would flock to Akron each and every year to learn about the lives of inventors and play with some gadgets as the organization subsequently morphed into Inventure Place? Hoot.
  • The building itself was important to rehaping Akron’s downtown. To bad it didn’t house the Bowling Hall of Fame or something of equal stature. Trying to attract interest in inventors — from the news media and others — is a tough sell. In retrospect, too bad Marconi didn’t have a Twitter account.
  • When Akron still had an aggressive daily newspaper, reporters used to ask plenty of questions about the funding for Inventure Place and the realistic projections that it could sustain itself as a tourist attraction. And for awhile the ABJ printed some accurate — and harsh — stories about the organization. At some point those stories just faded away. Gee. A lot like the HOF itself . I digress.
  • But in the early days, the ABJ — on the business/management side — was a very vigorous supporter of the HOF. I wonder if that really is the proper role for a newspaper?
  • I like Mayor Don. He could have given a typical PR response — all mush, no substance. But he was mad about this decision — as he should be. And actually the Akron taxpayers should be equally upset — given the considerable amount of public money that went down this rat hole.

The Inventors Hall of Fame: A real hoot.

Unfortunately.

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