The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

DRIVING FOR DOLLARS

Commuters find more job opportunities, better pay outside county

To get a picture of the direction that economic opportunity has taken in northeast Ohio, watch the flow of traffic on Interstate 90 in the early-morning hours.

According to 2004 U.S. Census Bureau data, 5,775 Ashtabula County residents 16 years and older commute to Lake County to work. Another 2,683 join the westward flow as they head to jobs in Cuyahoga County. Geauga County claims 2,265 workers, Trumbull County 485 and Erie County, Pa., 412. Workers from Ashtabula County also travel to Mahoning, Lorain, Summit and Portage counties to earn paychecks.

Conversely, Lake County contributes 1,200 workers to Ashtabula, Geauga County 257 and Trumbull County 892. Crawford County, Pa., had 644 residents working in Ashtabula County, and Erie County, Pa., sent us 589 commuters.

When all was said and done, there was a net loss of 7,764 commuters from Ashtabula County in 2004. Census Bureau statistics from 1990 to 2000 suggest it is a growing trend, as well.

While those in the economic development community see commuting as a positive thing — it lowers local unemployment rates and means people are working and paying taxes — it’s not good for the municipalities where workers live. In Ohio, workers pay local tax to the community in which they earn the money. Further, commuting damages the environment, increases America’s dependence upon foreign oil, and consumes time that otherwise could be used for volunteering or going to school or spent with family.

For many out-commuters, the longer drive still produces a net economic gain, even with gasoline costing $3.40 a gallon in the Cleveland area. For others, it’s simply a matter of finding work in which they can use their college degree, training or skills.

Commuters

Continued from A1

Nick Fazio, a Jefferson resident, has commuted to work on Interstate 90 for most of the past quarter of a century. He worked for Avery Dennison in Lake County 21 years.

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