Forbes ranks Valley metro area among 10 worst cities for recession recovery

By David Skolnick

The Youngstown mayor points to several positive articles about the city.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning Valley is (ho-hum) on another bad-news list compiled by Forbes.

The latest, released Wednesday on, the magazine’s Web site, lists “Youngstown-Warren-Boardman” among the 10 cities “with the longest road to recovery” from the national economic recession.

The list of 10 also includes the New York City area, Detroit and Flint, Mich., and six areas in California including Los Angeles.

“Youngstown and the entire Mahoning Valley is suffering from an economic decline,” said Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams. “That’s not news; it’s been going on for 30 years. The recent economic downturn has made it a little tougher. Things are difficult and challenging. We have a long way to go. But we have had plenty of positive press.”

The Youngstown 2010 property plan that calls for a planned shrinking city has received attention nationally in The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, among others, and internationally in Challenges, a French business magazine, and Nikkei, a Japanese business newspaper.

There are plenty of other cities and regions as bad off or worse than Youngstown that didn’t make the list, Williams said.

In August 2008, Forbes listed the top 10 fastest-dying cities including Youngstown. Detroit and Flint. But there were seven others — Canton; Dayton; Cleveland; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charleston, W.Va.; Scranton, Pa.; and Springfield, Mass. — on that list that didn’t get on the latest worst top 10.

“I can’t imagine the cities on the fastest-dying list have made significant economic recovery to not be on this list,” Williams said.

Public officials, citizen activists, artists and academics from the cities on the 10 fastest-dying list will meet Aug. 7-9 in Dayton to discuss, among other things, the most innovative community revitalization projects taking place in their cities.

Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien said the area’s reliance on manufacturing resulted in its economic struggles and placement on both Forbes’ lists.

“There’s no question we’ve suffered more than most communities nationally because of the enormous loss of jobs,” he said.

The list doesn’t rank the “10 worst U.S. cities for economic recovery,” but Flint is clearly identified as facing the largest challenge.

To determine the 10 worst and the 10 best cities prepared for economic recovery, Forbes examined projected gross domestic product from Moody’s, unemployment figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, and home prices, incomes and affordability data from the National Association of Home Buildings, according to the article written by Joshua Zumbrun, the magazine’s Washington correspondent.

“The analysis also shows the importance of a city’s economic makeup,” Zumbrun wrote. “Manufacturing has been battered by the recession, leaving cities like Detroit and Flint, Mich., or Youngstown, Ohio, with bad unemployment and a changing economy that’s unlikely to replace the lost jobs.”

The piece states: “The Youngstown region of western (sic) Ohio [it’s actually in the eastern part of the state] has struggled throughout the decade with the decline of manufacturing, a problem that has intensified during the recession. Moody’s estimates that the economy of Youngstown peaked in 2005 and will not recover to that size until early 2013.”

The area will emerge from the recession sooner than that, O’Brien said.

The article states the Mahoning Valley’s annual gross domestic product at the start of the recession at $16.3 billion with a projected GDP of $15.4 billion for 2010, or a 6 percent decline.

Only Flint at a 15.6 percent projected decline and the Detroit area at 6.4 percent are higher.

“One commonly cited rule of thumb for depression is a decline of 10 percent,” according to the article.

The article doesn’t include a date for the beginning of the recession, but most economists say it started in December 2007.

Many economists expect the national economy to return to growth later this year, perhaps as soon as the summer, Zumbrun wrote.

In addition to Wednesday’s list and last year’s top 10 fastest-dying cities, Forbes listed Austintown as the fifth fastest-dying town in the United States in December 2008.

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