On the Road: Lorain and Elyria

July 18th, 2017

This summer, Greater Ohio Policy Center continues to travel across Ohio visiting legacy cities. We have heard the struggles these cities face, but also the opportunities that lie ahead in these smaller legacy cities.

Most recently, GOPC travelled to Lorain and Elyria. Both cities are located in Lorain County in the northeast part of the state, and Elyria is the county seat. We have taken some pictures from the downtown areas of both cities for you to enjoy.

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Lorain, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

Lorain, Ohio

Elyria, Ohio

Elyria, Ohio

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Elyria, Ohio

Elyria, Ohio

Elyria, Ohio

 

 

 

 

Shrinking Cities Reading Series Part VI: Voices of Decline

July 13th, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

In Voices of Decline, Robert A. Beauregard traces the national discourse about urban decline over the majority of the 20th Century. This is done primarily by reviewing historical sources like magazines, journal articles, and opinion pieces that discuss the current state of urban affairs. He traces how commentators and intellectuals discussed urban issues over time and how that served to create a collective set of narratives about declining cities. This discourse is not always based in objective reality, but Beauregard demonstrates how the discourse impacts public perception and potentially, the realities that cities themselves face.

Beauregard argues that the discourse over urban decline is rooted in American ambivalence about urban life which can trace its roots to the founding of the country. The tensions between the city and the countryside eventually morphed into the more contemporary tensions between central cities and their surrounding suburbs. Many of these tensions are related to space and migration – as either the city or the countryside/suburbs attract residents, they must leave the other place behind. Political power requires population, so shifts away from one location to another means a loss of political power as well. Due in part to this political reality, the discourse around cities is rarely neutral as to their value or their moral position.

Portsmouth Historic Buildings 2

Even in the 1920s before urban decline took hold, commentators focused on how congestion and slums made cities unappealing. At this point, some of the ambivalence about cities was due to their role in pulling youth away from rural areas. Still, for the most part, cities were still considered to be the centers of action and any dark clouds were still faint on the horizon. The discourse about cities really began to shift during and after World War II as the urban population losses created by wartime and the Great Depression were not reversed. Suburbanization that began during the 1920s was clearly an enduring trend, and commentators began to recognize the the growth of outlying areas came at the expense of the central cities. Still, many commentators believed that no clear change in the prospects of cities had occurred and that there were technical solutions to the problems at hand, such as annexation. Others began to call for a rethinking of what exactly constituted the city itself, claiming that the broader metropolitan region might be the essential urban unit.

The growing number of African-American migrants from the South moving to northern cities in search of jobs and an escape from Jim Crow presaged a rapid, racially-charged change in the discourse about urban decline. The prospects for recovery were no longer seen as being as bright, and some commenters began to argue that cities were no longer worth saving. Others, however, began to see the moral dimensions of allowing cities that were rapidly growing poorer to decay and sought to show the growing inequalities between the central city and the suburbs. Federal urban renewal programs provided some momentary enthusiasm about reversing decline, but an increasing focus on race and the clear failures of that program quickly deadened any predictions of an urban turnaround. At this point, the rhetoric around urban decline was not about physical deterioration, but shifted to a social and moral deterioration that was deeply rooted in racism. With the election of Richard Nixon, the federal government no longer took direct responsibility for dealing with urban problems and a new focus on replaced traditional anti-poverty programs aimed at rebuilding industrial cities that were continuing to lose jobs and population.

But then, beginning in the late 1970s but coming fully into view in the 1980s, things began to briefly turn around as some higher income people began moving back into the cities. As the service-based economy consolidated their headquarters into central cities, higher educated workers followed them and began to gentrify neighborhoods that had previously been abandoned by the white middle class. Although this trend continued only in fits and starts, it did signal a major change in the perceived function of central cities – they were no longer centers of production, but of consumption. Beauregard’s analysis ends in the early 2000s, but it is easy to see how this trend has extended on into today.

Beauregard concludes by pulling at a deeper meaning in the discourse about urban decline. He argues that urban decline is a central part of American identity and political economy because a He claims that and cities are the essential loci of this interaction. Beauregard argues that the focus of the discourse on the cities themselves shields the broader issues of capitalism from public view. As cities become symbols for broader social forces that cause anxiety, the decline of cities is viewed with ambivalence and even acceptance.

This article is part of a blog series exploring books and articles written about shrinking cities, or communities that are losing population and dealing with housing vacancy and abandonment. For more information on this series, see the first post “Reading Series on Shrinking Cities”. These summaries are provided only for educational purposes and opinions expressed in these summaries do not necessarily reflect those of Greater Ohio Policy Center.

 

Neighborhood Stabilization and Regrowth Strategies from Weinland Park and Beyond

June 29th, 2017

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Coordinator

Cleveland and Dayton 052

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) staff attended the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s (CMC) session Lessons from Weinland Park. The session was moderated by Columbus Dispatch reporter Mark Ferenchik and featured guests Michael Wilkos of the Columbus Foundation, Carla Williams-Scott of the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, and Eve Picker, a city planner and community development strategist from Pittsburgh. The CMC session followed the release of OSU’s Kirwan Institute’s release of its findings from a recent survey done on the redevelopment of Weinland Park, a Columbus neighborhood which sits just east of Ohio State’s campus.

Wilkos began by explaining the importance of focusing on both people and place simultaneously, as a means of successfully committing to revitalizing an underserved area. Too much effort to rebuild the physical environment of the area could lead to the displacement of residents who perhaps become priced out, while efforts with excessive focus on guiding residents themselves could lead to them leaving the neighborhood for new opportunities, which would leave behind others. Wilkos noted that the Weinland Park Collaborative has been critical in ensuring that Weinland Park’s revitalization has seen both people and place-focused approaches. Williams-Scott added that the City operates at neighborhood level with residents’ opinions as a top priority, which is a necessary feature of any successful revitalization strategy.

Despite all of Weinland Park’s progress over the last few decades, Wilkos stressed that there is still a lot of work to do in the neighborhood. In 2014, GOPC released, with support from the Columbus Foundation, Achieving Healthy Neighborhoods: the impact of housing investments in Weinland Park. That report found that the neighborhood has exhibited increased housing and overall economic stability but that it has a long way to go to become fully a sustainable area. Since 2013, the market has rapidly strengthened in Weinland Park, yet many challenges still persist for some residents, especially families who are still in poverty. On a positive note, the recent Kirwan study concluded that, in general residents believe that the neighborhood is improving.  However 51% of residents still rely on government assistance, and the high rate of people who rent is unchanged from 2010, when their last study was conducted. Wilkos emphasized that because incomes are generally stagnant, it is increasingly difficult for families to pay an affordable rate for housing in a market where living costs are constantly rising.

Lastly, Williams-Scott discussed the City of Columbus’ work in the neighborhoods of Linden and the Hilltop. While there are important lessons that can be learned from the Weinland Park undertaking, she noted there are unique circumstances in Linden and the Hilltop, such as the absence of having an anchor institution like Ohio State right in their backyard. In general, the City’s focus in underserved neighborhoods is on increasing employment opportunities and expanding access to transportation. GOPC works with state and local partners and supports policies that boost multimodal transportation systems and thus expand access to jobs. As Williams-Scott noted, it is of paramount importance that workers and potential workers have a reliable means of transportation in order to get to job sites.

 

Shrinking Cities Reading Series Part V: Sunburnt Cities

June 28th, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

Phoenix.skyline.750pix

In Sunburnt Cities, author Justin Hollander examines shrinking cities beyond the Rust Belt. After seeing the destabilization of neighborhoods in the Sunbelt brought on by the foreclosure crisis and Great Recession, Hollander argues that cities that have experienced nearly continual growth should acknowledge and plan for the possibility of decline. Hollander considers how deeply a reliance on growth is embedded in these cities – including economies that are dependent in part on the real estate business – but argues that the Great Recession has proven that this growth is not always reliable. Hollander acknowledges that declining populations and destabilized neighborhoods may be more of a blip for these cities than for their counterparts in the Midwest and Northeast, but encourages cities to at least shift their growth-only orientation to acknowledge the potential for shrinkage and adopt “smart decline” techniques that are similar to smart growth principles already embraced in some of these cities.

Cities in the Rust Belt typically have worked to combat decline with growth. But Hollander makes the case about why this focus on growth is often counterproductive to these cities. Hollander cites literature that shows that economic development policies promoting growth in shrinking cities have rarely been effective in changing population or employment levels. A growing population is not always a sign of a healthy community, and at times economic development efforts have come at the expense of working to improve quality of life for remaining residents. With this in mind, Hollander suggests a different way forward for these cities – smart decline. Specifically, he explores two tools, Relaxed Zoning – which allows noncomforming uses in a high vacancy neighborhood for some period of time – and the identification of “Decline Nodes” through statistical modelling which can help identify areas that are likely to lose population in the future. In general, these tools challenge the commonly-held notion that communities must fight decline by rebuilding markets at the cost of producing more affordable housing or rebuilding quality of life for residents.

Nearly the remainder of the book looks at specific neighborhoods in Flint, MI and three Sunbelt cities to examine how shrinking populations have affected those places. Hollander uses Flint as a point of contrast to show how decline affects the physical and social fabric of neighborhoods differently. In comparing three neighborhoods in Flint, he argues that population decline does not always have to translate into lower quality of life for residents. In each of the Flint neighborhoods, and in the case study neighborhoods in the Sunbelt cities, he tracks changes in the density of occupied housing units as a way of quantifying physical changes in the neighborhood as population leaves. Yet he showed that different responses to decline and other factors in the neighborhood had bearing on changes in quality of life even given substantial population loss.

From here, Hollander explores each of the case study cities – Fresno, Phoenix, and Orlando – and neighborhoods that experienced population loss within them. All three cities had adopted some kind of smart growth policies in recent years, including significant regional growth plans in Fresno and Phoenix. As such, the population declines and neighborhood destabilization caused by the Recession came as a shock to these cities, who were largely unprepared to deal with the challenges. Fresno is the exception here, because the city had previously experienced population loss and had developed some tools, including an abandoned building registry and aggressive code enforcement, to help deal with vacant properties. In Phoenix, on the other hand, planners argued that decline was just momentary, and did little to leverage the federal funding provided by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to plan for potential further decline. The city of Orlando had embraced New Urbanist principles earlier on, which may have helped the city to weather the crisis with more ease than in the other cities that experienced more out-of-control sprawl. Still, local planners did not see value in confronting the potential for decline – NSP money was not even handled by the planning department, who instead continued to plan for future growth in the city.

Hollander concludes by encouraging cities, even those that have been able to rely on the growth orientation in recent decades, to at least consider potential for future decline by embracing what he calls “strategic flexibility”. Essentially, cities should be ready to manage change of all types, including a no-growth future. Cities have little true control over their future growth or decline, as outside factors like federal policy do more to impact that. But they still can choose to set themselves up for success in case of future shrinkage. In order to do that, Hollander suggests ten strategies and policy recommendations that local officials should adopt to plan for decline. They are:

  1. Create barriers to new residential construction in high vacancy neighborhoods
  2. Compel property owners (or mortgage holders) to maintain vacant buildings
  3. Use land banks to facilitate quick transfer of tax delinquent properties to public ownership
  4. Promote programs that allow neighbors to buy adjacent tax delinquent properties at low cost
  5. Move quickly to demolish or rehab vacant buildings that are publicly controlled
  6. Subsidize rehabilitation or demolition of privately-owned vacant buildings
  7. Maintain publicly-owned vacant lots
  8. Provide incentives for owners in high vacancy areas to convert their properties into parkland or agricultural land.
  9. Implement Relaxed Zoning codes that allows for nonconforming uses in high-vacancy neighborhoods
  10. Help residents who want to relocate to move to areas with better employment prospects.

This article is part of a blog series exploring books and articles written about shrinking cities, or communities that are losing population and dealing with housing vacancy and abandonment. For more information on this series, see the first post “Reading Series on Shrinking Cities”. These summaries are provided only for educational purposes and opinions expressed in these summaries do not necessarily reflect those of Greater Ohio Policy Center.

 

GOPC Presents Smaller Legacy City Work to Mayors Association of Ohio

June 22nd, 2017

On June 15th, GOPC’s Executive Director, Alison Goebel, gave the lunchtime address at the 2017 Mayors Association of Ohio, a member affiliate of the Ohio Municipal League.  Goebel shared highlights from GOPC’s ongoing work on smaller legacy cities in Ohio with the crowd of about 75 mayors.  Many of the attendees serve Ohio’s villages and smaller towns, such as Fostoria and Eastlake. Attendees responded positively to the recommendations GOPC makes for stabilizing and turning around smaller legacy cities, recognizing that these lessons have applicability to all communities, regardless of size.

ag speaking

GOPC On The Road: Marion, Hamilton, and Middletown

June 14th, 2017

This summer, GOPC staff will be traveling across Ohio as we engage in discussions with stakeholders in Ohio’s small and medium sized legacy cities. The GOPC On The Road photo series will be highlighting the rich history of these cities as the revitalization efforts that are currently being made. Over the past weeks, GOPC staff has already made trips to Marion, Hamilton, and Middletown.

 Marion, OH

Located in north-central Ohio, Marion is the county seat of Marion County. As of the 2010 census, Marion’s population was  36,837.  Former U.S. President Warren G. Harding was a resident of Marion for much of his adult life..

Marion Mural

Marion Mural

Downtown Marion

Downtown Marion

Marion Palace Theatre

Marion Palace Theatre

Main Street

Main Street

 

Hamilton, OH

Originally founded in 1791 as Fort Hamilton, the City of Hamilton is located in Ohio’s southwest corner. Hamilton is the county seat of Butler County, and part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, Hamilton’s population was 62,447. 

Downtown Hamilton

Downtown Hamilton

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Inside the historic Mercantile Building

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Historic Mercantile Building

Hamilton Mural

Mural of Alexander Hamilton

 

Middletown, OH

Middletown is located in Butler and Warren counties in SW Ohio. Middletown was incorporated by the Ohio General Assembly on February 11, 1833, and became a city in 1886. As of the 2010 census, Middletown’s population was 48,694. Recently Middletown received national attention from J.D. Vance’s New York Times bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy”, in which Vance describes his life in Middletown.

Port Middletown Mural

Port Middletown Mural

Chalk Art in Middletown

Chalk Art in Middletown

Main Street Middletown

Main Street Middletown

Mural in Middletown

Mural in Middletown

“State Government and Urban Revitalization”: New Paper Outlines Principles for State Engagement with Revitalizing Cities

June 13th, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

A new working paper written by researcher Alan Mallach and released by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy explores how state governments can support lasting and inclusive urban revitalization. By law, cities are subject to significant intervention by state governments, even in states where municipalities have home rule authority. To greater or lesser extents, states set guidelines about what cities may or may not do, which can bolster or limit their ability to build stronger economies and neighborhoods. States also typically have access to greater resources, meaning their financial and programmatic support – or lack thereof – for urban revitalization efforts can make a significant impact. In Ohio, cities have home rule authority, which allows for a degree of autonomy from state authority. But the state can still broaden or limit municipalities’ powers, including their capacity to raise revenue, or as seen recently –can choose to reduce state revenue sharing.  Municipalities’ fates are not determined by state policy alone – but state policy can be a headwind or tailwind for cities seeking to turn things around.

Mallach defines urban revitalization as a series of processes that together can create transformative change. Specifically, he identifies five key elements of the broader urban revitalization process: fiscal and service delivery capacity; healthy real estate markets; healthy neighborhoods and quality of life; economic competitiveness; and human capital development. While each element requires unique strategies and interventions, the elements are so interdependent that cities must work on all of them in concert to make real progress.

These elements are also subject to what Mallach calls an “inclusivity screen,” which measures the extent to which the benefits of growth and revitalization are available to all of the city’s residents. As discussed in the recent report “Looking for Progress in America’s Smaller Legacy Cities,” which was summarized in an earlier blog post, many revitalizing cities have struggled to make new prosperity broadly accessible to residents. But evidence suggests that more inclusive growth leads to greater economic gains and less political turmoil, underscoring the importance of viewing all revitalization efforts through the inclusivity lens.

By examining states’ roles in impacting the five elements of urban revitalization and inclusivity, Mallach derives principles that should guide state policy in supporting successful revitalization.

  • “Support cities’ efforts rather than attempt to substitute for them”: Urban revitalization efforts will only be successful if they are driven by local leadership. State governments must recognize that local officials have the best understanding of their communities’ needs, and that constraints placed on programs or spending at the state level often hinder the local creativity necessary to successfully revitalize.
  • “Neutral is not neutral”: Jurisdictions do not begin on an even playing field, which means that places that start off stronger benefit more from “neutral” policies than those that began in a disadvantaged position. States should target their resources to jurisdictions that need them most and should reexamine policies that disadvantage central cities that are in need of revitalization.
  • “Integrate urban revitalization into a regional framework”: Cities and the suburban and exurban regions that surround them make up a single economic unit, and as such, any revitalization efforts championed by state governments should encourage greater cooperation among jurisdictions in fragmented regions.
  • “Break down silos and integrate revitalization elements”: A lack of coordination among government agencies and departments is a widely acknowledged problem. States should not only encourage local governments to remove internal barriers to coordination, they should also ensure that state agencies are organized in a way that promotes collaboration with local governments.
  • “Build an inclusivity framework into state policies and programs”: Many of the challenges related to poverty and inequality are outside of a city’s immediate ability to control, and many cities fall short of addressing even those they can impact. States have an important role to play in increasing access to economic opportunity for residents, either by enacting state policies that directly benefit low-income people or by explicitly enabling or encouraging cities to create inclusive policies.

Mallach concludes that states are important actors in revitalization activities, and provides a long list of more concrete recommendations for how they can promote cities’ success. These recommendations include allowing for diversified municipal revenue sources, providing state dollars to seed catalytic redevelopment projects, and “fix-it-first” and multi-modal transportation policies. A full list of recommendations is available beginning on page 49 of the report.

 

Guests of Ann Fisher Show Discuss Emerging Land Use Trends Revealed in New ULI Report and Implications on Housing Affordability, Transportation

June 5th, 2017

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Coordinator

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has issued a new national report titled Housing in the Evolving American Suburb, which assesses general trends in housing, income, demographics within urban and suburban areas throughout the country. Stockton Williams, an author of the report, recently appeared on the All Sides with Ann Fisher radio show to discuss emerging patterns in housing and land use and to offer insight on the report findings’ implications for Ohio, and Columbus in particular. Williams was joined on the show by Rob Vogt of Vogt Strategic Insights, who emphasized the value of boosting transportation options in Ohio as a means of confronting suburbanization challenges detailed in the report.

As many analyses have shown, the growth of suburbs came largely at the expense of downtown areas in the post-war years; one of the main discoveries of the ULI report is that today many regions exhibit suburban and urban growth simultaneously. Speakers on the show mentioned that Columbus, for instance, has seen job and population increases largely throughout suburban and city areas over the past few years. While this rise often manifests in many large cities, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) has found that over the last few decades, many smaller cities in Ohio have seen a decline in key indicators of economic health in both suburban and urban areas. GOPC’s 2016 report From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring?, which analyzes the economic health of smaller and mid-sized cities in Ohio, shows that this dual suburban-urban growth has yet to take off in many Ohio cities. In fact, the state’s smaller legacy cities and their surrounding metro areas experienced declines in population and labor force participation along with increased poverty rates during pre-(2000-2009) and post-recession (2009-2014) time periods.

Hb 463 webinar pic

Contrary to some popular thought, suburban areas in the US are still highly inhabited. In fact, 79 percent of the US population lives in suburbs, according to the ULI report. However, as a result of the growing popularity for the younger generation to move to urban environments, urban living costs have generally gone up, and thus many families in Ohio in turn are forced to re-locate into less-costly suburban neighborhoods. As a result of this movement, speakers on the radio show explain that transportation challenges represent a substantial barrier for many families who now live in Ohio’s suburbs, because public transportation is generally less comprehensive in these areas. GOPC strongly supports policies to build a robust network of public transportation throughout Ohio’s cities and metros as a tool for economic development, whereby potential workers have a reliable means of getting to a job. To do this, Williams emphasized the need to explore ways to improve bus service and build on current public transportation systems. Guests also discussed multimodal transportation’s related benefits, such as a relaxed demand for parking and lower traffic congestion.

A discussion of the changing housing patterns and preferences along with increasing home prices and rents also feature heavily in ULI’s report. During the radio show, Fisher referred to a statistic in a report GOPC co-authored with the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio (AHACO) titled The Columbus and Franklin County Affordable Housing Challenge: Needs, Resources, and Funding Models, noting that there are over 46,000 renters in central Ohio who pay over 50% of their income on housing costs. According to Vogt, this staggering number of people considered to be “severely housing cost burdened” is reflected throughout the country, and is a function of both the price of housing and annual incomes. To narrow this gap, one example of an affordable housing solution that Williams recommends is inclusionary zoning. This tool enables a local government to incentivize a private developer to build market rate housing with some mix of below-market units in a specific area. The report GOPC co-authored with AHACO highlights inclusionary zoning and developer incentives in Denver, Colorado as successful and potentially replicable models for expanding affordable housing.

Read ULI’s Report Here

 

Shrinking Cities Reading Series Part III: Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown

May 31st, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown by Sean Safford is a commonly cited work on struggling cities, particularly smaller ones. Unlike the other work profiled so far, Safford deals less directly with issues of vacant land but examines how civic capacity and social networks can influence a city’s path. Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown compares the trajectory of two very similar Rust Belt cities – Allentown, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio – and examines why Allentown has been more successful in rebounding from economic decline and adapting to the 21st Century economy. Both cities experienced significant crises as their primary economic engine – the steel industry – retooled in the 1970s, resulting in fewer local jobs and the eventual dissolution of each city’s key local company. Despite these challenges, Allentown has recently experienced economic and population regrowth while Youngstown has still largely not rebounded from the crisis of 40 years ago.

Safford narrows in on the social networks between economic and business elites as a key point of divergence between the cities. He traces the structure of social networks back to the founding of each city to determine its effect on the community’s response to later crises. In Allentown, business scions settled among the various cities and towns in the Lehigh Valley and built a spirit of friendly competition amongst themselves. This resulted in investment in civic, educational, and cultural institutions that were ultimately to the benefit of the community as a whole. In Youngstown, on the other hand, Safford finds that business leaders were more closely knit together and identified more with their class identity than another identity tied to place or ethnic group.

In Allentown, community leaders, including the president of Bethlehem Steel, sought to increase their own power by building stronger ties among members of disparate communities. In a particularly notable example, Allentown leaders worked to build a literal bridge between two communities and raised money and support for the project through a grassroots level campaign. The stronger ties among members of different economic classes that resulted from this effort helped build networks that were resilient in the face of eventual crisis. In Youngstown, on the other hand, Safford concludes that business leaders saw little personal value in engaging with the broader community and instead actively worked to pit ethnic groups against one another.

As the crisis in steel manufacturing loomed, leaders in Allentown responded by laying the groundwork for greater economic diversification. In Youngstown, business leaders doubled down on steel manufacturing. Once the crisis finally hit in the 1970s, Allentown was insulated from the worst effects of the downturn due to increased diversification. Local leaders turned to building local economic engines outside of the steel industry. In Youngstown, Safford says that business leaders essentially left the community on its own to figure out an answer – and the fragmented communities within the city all proposed competing responses to the crisis.

Ytown downtown

Youngstown, Ohio

Safford is able to follow the connections between economic elites in both cities to trace what kinds of networks produced the different kinds of results. He found that in 1950, economic connections in both cities are relatively dense among different powerful people. In Youngstown, those connections extended into the social realm as well, as many members of the economic elite attended the same churches and participated in the same clubs. In Allentown, social networks among economic players were much more diffuse, although a few key organizations appeared to connect many of the most prestigious leaders. Safford argues that Allentown’s more diffuse network allowed economic elites to respond to the crisis more effectively. Allentown’s social networks create multiple layers of interaction among participants that are connected but not identical to one another. When one of the layers went into crisis – as occurred in the economic realm – actors had other, insulated layers of interaction to pull from to creatively respond to the crisis at hand. Safford argues that actors were able to receive more and different kinds of opinions about potential responses to the crisis by hearing from a more diverse set of actors. Additionally, a broader set of leaders could emerge than the closed off set of “usual suspects” present in Youngstown.

Safford examined the network ties of the most powerful people in both cities again in 2000. His research showed a striking difference in the makeup of each city’s powerbrokers. Quite a few economic elites and political figures remained in prominent positions in Allentown, while in Youngstown power was much more concentrated among leaders of nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Safford claims that Allentown was stronger because there were still economic leaders involved in its civic structure – and Youngstown suffered because that was not the case. There is little economic incentive for corporate leaders to actively participate in their communities, but in Allentown, the multiple layers of network ties led actors to find other value in participating in civic activities.

This article is part of a blog series exploring books and articles written about shrinking cities, or communities that are losing population and dealing with housing vacancy and abandonment. For more information on this series, see the first post “Reading Series on Shrinking Cities”. These summaries are provided only for educational purposes and opinions expressed in these summaries do not necessarily reflect those of Greater Ohio Policy Center.

 

“The Future of the Great Lakes Region”: New Urban Institute Report Explores How Decline in Manufacturing Industry is Shaping the Industrial Midwest

April 27th, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

A new report from the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute examines economic and demographic changes over the past century in the Great Lakes region (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) and projects trends into the middle of the twenty-first century.  The report finds that that region’s reliance on manufacturing has created unique challenges that set it on a different path than the rest of the country. Importantly, the challenges in the manufacturing sector have deepened dramatically in the last fifteen years. Although there were major shocks to the manufacturing sector in the 1970s, employment in the sector recovered and eventually grew to its highest level in 1999. At that point, the sector experienced an even greater shock from automation and foreign competition, causing it to shed 35 percent of jobs in the region from 2000 to 2010.

This dramatic loss in employment had a number of important ripple effects. Manufacturing jobs pay an average of $78,000, dramatically higher than average wages in the region. As a result of the loss of manufacturing employment, the Great Lakes states saw a decline in higher wage jobs while other regions experienced growth. Meanwhile, other regions saw net job growth of 17.5 percent from 2000 to 2015, while the Great Lakes states saw only 3.7 percent growth in that time period. Notably, low-wage jobs accounted for all of this job growth in the Great Lakes region.

Toledo-glassmaking

Glass-maker in Toledo, Ohio

Demographic trends appear to mirror recent economic decline. The Great Lakes region has continued to grow population slowly, but the authors estimate that the region will stop growing by 2030 as baby boomers age and out-migration continues. Between 50,000 and 105,000 people left the region every year between 2007 and 2014, but out-migration appeared to slow after the end of the Great Recession. The timing of this trend is particularly impactful because it happened just as the millennial generation came of age and began entering the workforce. As a result, the Great Lakes region lost younger workers as other regions saw growth in this cohort.

The region’s workforce is aging, particularly in the manufacturing sector: people ages 45 to 64 account for 46 percent of manufacturing employees, up from 36 percent in 2000. The number of people in the workforce is anticipated to remain flat as baby boomers retire and young people leave the region. The authors predict that this could result in a tight labor market in the 2020s, potentially pushing wages higher if the workforce has skills appropriate for available jobs.

Despite population loss – or perhaps because of it – the region is becoming more racially diverse. The non-Hispanic white population has declined back to 1990 levels, while the African-American population is 17 percent higher than in 1990. The Hispanic population has seen the greatest growth – surging from 800,000 in 1990 to 3.1 million in 2015. Correspondingly, the foreign-born population in the Great Lakes region has grown, but not to the same extent as other parts of the country. The authors argue that efforts to invest in communities of color and mitigate long-standing racial disparities are crucial to the long-term health of the region. People of color are the only growing population cohort in the region, and will make up an increasingly large portion of the local labor force.

While many of the findings of the report are quite sobering, the authors suggest that wise investments in human capital, civic capacity, and community revitalization can help reverse decline by encouraging young people to stay and by sharing prosperity more broadly among residents. Recommended investments include sustainable financial support for upgrading and maintaining water and energy infrastructure to bolster economic development. Critically, these investments cannot be focused only on the largest metropolitan areas in the region. The Great Lakes states’ deep challenges are present – sometimes to an even greater extent – in small cities and rural areas as well, and efforts to restore the region’s prosperity must be fully inclusive of these communities.