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Economic impact of manufacturing losses in valley

By Ed Runyan

Sunday, October 6, 2013

By Ed Runyan |

Though the area where most of us live is called the Mahoning Valley — generally thought of as Trumbull and Mahoning counties — the two have not had the same economic history over the past decade.

The two counties have been regarded as almost twins — collectively one of the mighty industrial centers of Ohio.

But while both counties shared the Steel Valley name for their vast steel-making facilities along the Mahoning River, the decline of steel making in the two counties did not run along parallel tracks.

The Youngs-town area made national news in 1977, Black Monday, when Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. announced it would close its Campbell Works, eliminating 4,100 jobs. About 35,000 more Youngstown-area steel- related jobs were lost over the next five years, according to the Center For Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University.

By 2001, Mahoning County had only 12,000 manufacturing jobs of any kind left, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trumbull County, however, still had two large steel makers (the former Copperweld and the former WCI), plus General Motors Lordstown and Packard Electric in Warren. The four together employed about 17,000 in high-paying jobs.

“We still had our manufacturing base,” said Mark Zigmont, a longtime economic development planner for Trumbull County. “But [Mahoning County] had to confront [deindustrialization] much earlier.”

Manufacturing nationwide continued to decline in the 2000s and beyond, causing more job losses in Trumbull County than in Mahoning. Today, Mahoning County has about 9,000 manufacturing jobs, a loss of 3,045 jobs (25 percent) since 2001, while Trumbull has about 12,500 manufacturing jobs, a loss of 15,728 jobs (56 percent).

Trumbull’s manufacturing losses also translated into overall job loss, causing a downward trend in total jobs between 2001 and early this year and total income for Trumbull residents.

Mahoning County’s total jobs loss was half of Trumbull’s over those 12 years. And Mahoning’s total wages actually increased, though at less than the state average.

Poverty rates in Trumbull County also increased at a higher percentage than in Mahoning County, according to U.S. Census data.

Mahoning County’s poverty rate is 17.1 percent, which is higher than Trumbull County’s 16.4 percent, but Trumbull’s rate increased more over the decade (6.1 percent) than in Mahoning County (4.6 percent) or statewide (4.5 percent).

tough times

Problems at Trumbull county manufacturers such as CSC (former Copperweld), GM Lordstown, Packard Electric and WCI became apparent throughout the 2000s and beyond. About 8,500 jobs were lost at GM and Packard. About 2,500 more were lost at CSC and WCI.

“You had 10,000 more people here making 120 percent to 130 percent of the standard wage of about $55,000. And over a number of years, those jobs were gone,” Zigmont said.

Trumbull County didn’t have a Black Monday, but Zigmont said the county’s worst setback involved Delphi Packard Electric, which employed 5,000 people in good-paying jobs in late 2005, when it filed for bankruptcy protection, about 8,000 in 2001 and about 2,000 at three locations in Trumbull County now.

Trumbull County’s manufacturers were doing the same thing throughout the 2000s that manufacturers were doing across the United States — outsourcing their work to other parts of the United States and to other countries and automating so that they needed fewer workers, Zigmont said.

One symbol of the loss of Trumbull County manufacturing jobs is the change in the commercial corridor along U.S. Route 422 in Niles and Warren once known as the “Strip,” Zigmont said.

It once contained more four-star restaurants than almost any place in Ohio, but nearly all of them are gone.

“You had people who could go to the better restaurants, go on vacations, a pool in the yard,” Zigmont said, adding that the loss of those good-paying jobs is also generational.

“Not only did those people lose those jobs, but the next generation didn’t have the opportunity to get those jobs,” he said.

“You had a good, solid middle class. You could send your kids to college, have the car, the boat, the house,” he said.

The city of Warren also lost some pride when it lost manufacturers such as Halsey Taylor, the drinking-fountain manufacturer.

“Everybody when they took a drink, all over the United States and probably outside of the U.S., they saw Warren, Ohio” on the drinking fountain, he noted.


Calamity struck Trumbull County in 2009, when the Great Recession caused the Lordstown GM plant to scale back to one shift just before the company’s bankruptcy filing. At the same time, RG Steel (then known as Severstal) temporarily closed.

The city laid off 40 workers, most of them police officers and firefighters. “We’ve lost all of our manufacturing base,” said Warren’s mayor at the time, Michael O’Brien.

The Rev. Chris Gilger, executive director of Warren Family Mission, said he sees the social ills that have resulted from lost good-paying jobs every day at the mission, which he founded in 1998 in a house on Niles Road.

“Our guys are up at 5 a.m., and they go to Labor Ready. Sometimes they get jobs,” he said of the large number of males, mostly 18 to 25, who stay at the mission and try to get temporary work.

“All over the country, missions are full of kids,” he said. “Originally it was guys falling through the cracks 50 years old with poor health and bad habits.”

Many in this generation are working several part-time jobs “just to keep an apartment,” but many use cash-advance businesses, so they are always a paycheck behind, have no savings and “are one paycheck away from having to go to the missions.”

“You never own anything,” he said of finding only part-time work. “You’re on a treadmill. You’re just in survival mode. You’re not able to keep anything.”

That lifestyle leads to hopelessness and heroin use, in many cases by young people who played sports and got hooked on pain medications, the Rev. Mr. Gilger said.

The mission’s newest location is on U.S. 422 in Warren, just west of the area formerly known as the Strip. It’s new nickname could be Thrift Alley, because thrift stores have become the dominant industry, with three near the mission and others in walking distance.

Bim Turner, workforce administrator at the Trumbull County One-Stop jobs office in Warren, said the advent of the shale industry in the Mahoning Valley has come at a good time, producing jobs at Vallourec Star in Youngstown, TMK-IPSCO in Brookfield and many other companies.

“It’s not too often you get a second chance on your economy,” he said. “We’re lucky.”

Job orders placed with the One-Stop by local companies indicate that Trumbull County’s job picture is improving. The loss of manufacturing jobs is also forcing the community to have a more diversified set of employers while still holding onto General Motors as an “anchor,” he said.

“The area has been through the roller coaster,” he said. “We roll with the punches, and we come back.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trumbull lost 8.6 percent of its workforce between December 2008 and December 2009 — 54 percent of it from manufacturing — the most severe job loss, percentage-wise, among the nation’s 334 largest counties.

George Zeller, a Cleveland economic research analyst, published a paper in May 2011, analyzing the period from late 2001 to late 2011, showing that manufacturing employment across Ohio dropped 32 percent during that decade. Other big losses were in construction (29 percent) and information (26 percent).

Trumbull County had lost 49 percent of its manufacturing over that decade, the largest loss of any county in Ohio. Mahoning County lost 30.5 percent of its manufacturing, the 11th highest percentage in the state. Columbiana County lost 33.9 percent, the eighth highest.

The national and local economies improved in the years since 2010, but updated statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statics show that Trumbull County manufacturing has not, as job losses continued at the RG Steel, General Electric and other plants.