By Kristen Russo
Ohio’s seven largest metropolitan areas, which include the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area, account for about 71 percent of the state’s population, about 76 percent of its employment and about 77 percent of its economic output, according to an economic study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit public-policy organization.
The study also shows that Ohio’s 16 metropolitan areas account for about 81 percent of the state’s population, about 84 percent of its work force and about 86 percent of its economic output.
Eric Planey, vice president of international business attraction for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said he thinks the Youngstown area is leading the economic recovery.
“If you look at the state of our economy over the last 18 months, we’ve had significant growth in service and manufacturing,” Planey said. “I think our strategy of focusing on what we do best, which is manufacturing and distribution, will only continue to reap benefits for the area.”
Tom Finnerty, associate director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at Youngstown State University, disagrees, however.
“We’re very good, as it shows in the report, at making things other people want to develop. But you make more money if you’re the one developing,” Finnerty said.
“Industrial will expand, but we need to work on that other group, too. One of the most frustrating things in working at YSU is seeing all the people who go somewhere else because we don’t have the kind of jobs they’re looking for,” he said.
Ohio’s seven largest metropolitan areas, arranged in order from largest to smallest by population, are: Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor; Columbus; Cincinnati-Middletown, which spans parts of southwestern Ohio, northern Kentucky and eastern Indiana; Dayton; Akron; Toledo; and Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, which spans parts of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
With a population of 446,892 in Ohio, the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metropolitan area accounts for about 4 percent of the statewide population. It has a payroll employment of 174,200 or 3.4 percent of the state’s work force. It has put out about $14.8 billion in gross product, or 3.2 percent of the state’s economic output, according to the report.
In Pennsylvania, the region accounts for 0.9 percent of the state’s population with 116,071 people. It has a payroll employment of 49,500, or 0.9 percent of the state’s workers. It put out about $4 billion in gross product, or about 0.7 percent of the state’s economic output, according to the report.
The report shows the assets that fuel economic growth are mostly concentrated in each state’s metropolitan areas. It is based on numbers from 2009 because it is the most recent year from which complete information was available for all the economic indicators used in the report, said co-author Carey Anne Nadeau.
“If we were advising a governor of a state, we would suggest that growth in metropolitan areas is one thing they should be concentrating on,” Nadeau said. “[The data] does point to the fact that these areas are poised to lead the next economy.”
Ohio’s seven largest metropolitan areas also are among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.
According to the report, Ohio has more metropolitan areas on that list than any state besides Florida and California, which have eight and 11 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, respectively. Pennsylvania is the only state tied with Ohio at seven.
Finnerty said he isn’t surprised by the report because historically, metropolitan areas are where the jobs have always been.
“Since industry pretty much started where these metropolitan areas are, it might expand into the suburbs, but it’s not likely to expand into rural areas,” he said.
The report also shows how Ohio’s international exports, innovation and opportunity are concentrated in its metropolitan areas.
The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman region accounted for about 2 percent of the Ohio’s innovation and about 3 percent of its international exports and opportunity.
In Pennsylvania, the area was responsible for about 1 percent of the state’s international exports and less than 1 percent of the state’s innovation and opportunity.
Finnerty said he thinks the region needs to focus more on innovation.
“The people who develop things are the people who will improve the economy,” he said.