Job growth alone not the answer

Job growth in the Mahoning Valley does not necessarily mean a better economy or healthier quality of life. So as job growth continues, and all indications are that it will in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, local leaders are faced with challenges.

These often-unforeseen challenges were brought to light recently in the report ”What Matters to Metros,” a study commissioned by the Fund For our Economic Future. The Fund represents 16 northeast Ohio counties.

A key finding in the research is that ”… metropolitan areas that have experienced strong job growth had some of the highest income disparity, crime and poverty,” said Brad Whitehead, president of the Fund.

The four largest metro areas in northeast Ohio include the Warren-Youngstown-Boardman metropolitan statistical area. The four metros – including Akron, Canton and Cleveland – outperformed the national average in gross product, productivity and per capita income between 2010 and 2011. The four metros have a combined unemployment rate better than the national average.

But an analysis of 115 mid-sized metro areas between 1990 and 2011 indicates that more jobs do not translate into more prosperity. The reasons could be educational attainment. Another could be that jobs often grow in the suburbs, leaving disadvantaged in the inner cities with no transportation to work.

According to the report, ”Metro areas that have high shares of advanced degrees and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) degrees also have high levels of arts and management occupations, R&D expenditures, patents and venture capital.” However, northeast Ohio ranks in the bottom fifth nationally for educational attainment.

According to the report, ”Self-employment and/or entrepreneurship tend to have wide-ranging economic benefits and are present in more diverse and racially integrated metro areas.” However, northeast Ohio ranks in the bottom fifth nationally in this area.

And according to the report, ”Metro areas with a higher tax cost, energy costs and unionization rates tend to exhibit slower growth . . .” Northeast Ohio, the report says, struggles with larger than average local governments per capita.

Community forums this month provide stakeholders and concerned citizens with an opportunity to address these issues. Locally, the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek MetroParks will host a forum 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. June 20. Robust attendance would help the Mahoning Valley prepare for continued job growth.