By Todd Franko (Contact)
Published July 10, 2008
Two of us sat down at a news planning session excited to talk about local communities trying to recruit to their towns the incoming GM workers.
It was a headline in that day’s paper, and it was set to be our news pursuit again the next day.
But our excitement was vastly different.
His excitement: Dumb government. Why would you give these guys $500 to buy a house, when some poor schlep working somewhere else couldn’t get such a deal?
My take was different: This is the way government needs to be thinking. The addition of 1,400 workers to Lordstown, with many coming from around the Midwest, is a lottery win for the region. But truly cashing in will be the towns who can fill their vacant homes with these families.
I actually wondered why the incentives were so low – $500. I say that after watching years of government checks cut on deals for businesses, for vendors, for studies, for two-day festivals, for just about everybody who wants to set down a sandwich board on a city street.
Here — you have 1,400 families who will want to drive a stake into the ground, not just set down a sign.
I’ve had to buy homes in several towns, and I wouldn’t be enticed by $500. Show me a couple of thousands of dollars in tax breaks or other tools, and you’ll get my attention.
But throughout this week, that $500 has grown. Interesting was the Cafaro Corp. sweetening the pot in the towns surrounding their Eastwood Mall.
Also interesting is where the incentives have not grown: Mahoning County.
I can’t understand that. I think Austintown, Canfield, Boardman, Youngstown and Poland should be as hard at work as their cousins in Trumbull County.
The latest real estate numbers seem to support the need:
Mahoning County had 144 homes sold in May for an average price of $91,467. Last year, May saw 228 sales for an average of $99,109.
That same period in Trumbull looks like this: 136 for $88,854 compared to 184 for $87,428.
Columbiana is 55 at $111,904 in 2008 vs. 78 at $84,258 in 2007.
On average, Mahoning homes sit longer than Trumbull and Columbiana: Mahoning County, 127 days in 2008 compared with 129 in 2007; Trumbull County, 126 days, compared with 116 a year earlier; and Columbiana County, 98 days, compared with 95 a year earlier.
The most striking of the contrasts was a belief from Austintown Township Trustee Mike Dockry that they expect the same ratio of GM workers to move to Austintown as in the past.
That’s the same mindset that American industry employed decades ago when foreign production invaded various industries: “No need to compete, they’ll still come to us.”
This is a more frugal economy given escalating prices just about everywhere — except our home prices.
The communities that work at it will be the ones that ultimately cash in on the GM lottery ticket.