The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Why are we hurting so?

Despite abundant resources, county’s per capital personal income proves lowest in the region


Blaming our county’s problems on in-migration from Appalachia may be a convenient, if not urban-legend explanation, but it’s also one sure to stir strong emotions among those who migrated here in the 1950s, not for a handout but the opportunity to work.

Sixty years later, however, this Ashtabula County/ Appalachia-connection mentality has resurfaced in the efforts of Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township. In 2003, LaTourette introduced a bill that would add Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull counties to the Appalachian Regional Commission. H.B. 799 is before the U.S. Senate, and LaTourette hopes action will be taken this session.

Debbie Setliff, spokesperson for LaTourette’s Painesville office, says the designation is based upon contiguous counties being part of the ARC and the economic situation in the county.

“Ashtabula County would qualify because of the economic distress in the county,” Setliff says.

She says inclusion would give the county priority when dipping into pots of federal money for rural development, water/sewer projects and transportation.

It is interesting to note that among the three contiguous Ohio counties being considered for ARC inclusion, Ashtabula County has the lowest per capita income; the median family income here lags both counties by $5,000 or more, suggesting their poor neighbor to the north is ironically the most “Appalachian” of the trio. And both Trumbull and Mahoning counties had lower unemployment rates in January.

And yet Ashtabula County is rich with resources these other counties lack – land mass, Lake Erie ports, wineries, covered bridges and new state lodge. Many residents of Mahoning and Trumbull counties head north to enjoy these amenities, ironically in a county that lags behind theirs in basic indicators of economic health.

Why are we not doing better? And why does it matter if we don’t?

As for the latter question, the answer is quality of life. It’s not rocket science – if the residents of a county don’t make enough money to cover the basics, service industries and retailers whose businesses depend upon discretionary income aren’t going to locate in that community because there’s not enough extra money exchanging hands to support them. Property owners will be less likely to pass levies and school districts and municipal and county governments will constantly face budget struggles. Without discretionary income, individuals don’t have the money to support charities and the arts, invest in new businesses, send their kids to college, go back to school for their degree or additional training, buy that $25-bottle of wine, spend a night in the state-park lodge, shop in the upscale department store, eat at restaurants that don’t have a drive-through window or buffet line, own a boat and make improvements to their homes.

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Reality Check
  • images_sizedimage_070165730 Why are we hurting so? It’s time for a reality check.: Main story, Day one

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_069193501 Beyond wineries and covered bridges … An introduction to reality check

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • What it is, how it’s calculated Determining per capita income is a complex exercise that — at best — is a mathematical expression of a moving target.

    In its simplest terms, per capita income is, according to the Ohio Department of Development, “the income of a given area divided by the resident population of that area.” Sounds simple enough, but arriving at the figure is not.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_069195701 Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes Eavesdrop on conversations at the lunch counter, in the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Friday evening or around the sports bar on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re likely to hear some pretty disparaging remarks about the old hometown.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Finding work after prison nearly impossible A portion of Ashtabula County’s unemployed can’t find a job because of their prior address – a prison cell.

    June 25, 2008

  • County part of Team NEO marketing efforts Ashtabula County is part of a 16-county alliance aimed at marketing the Northeast Ohio region to employers and business investors, many of have never heard of Ashtabula, let alone Mentor, Akron or Youngstown.

    June 25, 2008

  • Some people just don’t want a job Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_070212402 POOR BUT WORKING A winter wind blew across the parking lot of the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry next to St. Joseph’s Church in Ashtabula; the six adults lined up at the door turned their faces from the wind, toward the metaphoric concrete wall of the building.

    June 25, 2008 2 Photos

  • images_sizedimage_071213603 County's largest hospital feels the Medicaid pain Perhaps no one in Ashtabula County feels the pinch of subsidizing unemployed or underemployed individuals more than Philip E. Pawlowski.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Crime & Drugs Inc. always hiring Some “unemployed” residents find crime to be their best source of steady income. Judge Richard Stevens of Western County Court says he noticed a 50-percent increase in the number of criminal cases handled by his court between 2005 and last year.

    June 25, 2008

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