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If you are scratching your head about why things are not significantly better in northeast Ohio after all the time, energy and resources spent the past few decades, join the club.  It isn’t because there hasn’t been a lot of highly talented, dedicated people working extra hard to help turn things around.  We are fortunate in that area.  But it may be because we haven’t made the right linkages.

The Fund for Our Economic Future (www.futurefundneo.org) just released a new economic study, What Matters to Metros™: Foundational Indicators for Economic Competitiveness.  The study identified key factors associated with economic growth in 115 mid-sized U.S. metropolitan areas, including Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown/Warren, in this post-recession economy.
As reported by study author Emily Garr Pacetti, Manager of Research at the Fund, there were several key findings.  Among them are:

  • Together, higher education and innovation are associated with per capita income, productivity and GMP growth. The factor is neither positively nor negatively associated with job growth.
  • Business starts and/or self-employment are associated with every measure of growth: jobs, income, productivity and GMP, and are especially pronounced in metro areas with more diverse and racially integrated populations.
  • Many metros that experienced high levels of employment growth did not see these jobs translate into higher per capita income; in fact, inequality, poverty and crime tended to be more prevalent in those metro areas that saw the most job gains.

The latter bullet is the most sobering.  Areas of the country with very high job growth also grew in crime, and poverty – because the jobs weren’t at the income level to sustain family life.  (As an aside – do you think there is a connection from that finding to the middle-class citizen protests in Europe?  Yea, I do too.  Great story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday on the same topic…)

The good news is that, according to the study, right now we are ahead of the national economy in a number of factors.  We were in the same place about 20 years ago, but unfortunately let the economy here slip behind national performance.  What’s it going to take to keep us ahead this time?  Bill Rice from WCPN did a nice piece on the study.  You can read/listen at here.

I urge you to take a look at the study (www.whatmatterstometros.org) and participate in the online discussion at www.theciviccommons.org/whatmatters.  Northeast Ohio will continue to need all the leadership it can garner from elected officials, non-profit and civic leader, and its citizens to help keep us on the right path.

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