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Akron, OH (Population: 217,074)

Akron, with an estimated population of 217,074 people, is located between Cleveland and Canton, approximately 60 miles west of the Pennsylvania border. Founded in 1825, near the Ohio & Erie Canals, Akron quickly transformed from a small canal town to a thriving city, best known for its connection with the rubber industry due the establishment of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. With the decline of industrial manufacturing in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, economic focus shifted to high technology and financial services. Today, Goodyear and FirstEnergy are the top employers in the area. Other companies include Lockheed Martin's Maritime and Systems Sensors division, Acme Fresh Market, Myers Industries, Gojo, Advanced Elastomer Systems, FirstMerit Bank and Roadway Express.

The city's diverse and colorful heritage can still be experienced at local restaurants and shopping centers. Business leaders have encouraged the reuse of old factory buildings for retail and hospitality space, like the Quaker Square Mall that used to be the Quaker Oats factory. Silos that held the raw oats have been transformed into hotel rooms, and the Trackside Grille depicts Akron's colorful history in rail transportation. Akron residents and visitors can support local independent retailers at the nationally-known West Point Market, which offers specialty and gourmet foods, wines and locally grown produce. Highland Square, a newly founded and fast growing entertainment district, is home to Square Records, a record store that carries unique and hard-to-find music.

Akron is also famous for the All American Soap Box Derby, where young contestants come from all over the U.S. to race their gravity-powered, homemade cars at Derby Downs. Other interesting attractions in the city include the Akron Art Museum, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the American Marble and Toy Museum and the Goodyear World of Rubber Museum.