Further, if their income slides into the realm of the economically disadvantaged, those citizens become eligible for all manner of entitlements, which ultimately are borne by the taxpayer. Once that happens, resources that otherwise could be used to nurture and develop the full potential of the community must be diverted to maintaining the status quo of existence generation after generation.
Unfortunately, the statistics show Ashtabula County, and particularly Ashtabula City, has more poverty now than at any time in the past 18 years, despite millions of dollars spent on economic development. We are becoming a county of the working poor.
State trails nation
Why does this situation exist here, a corner of the state so pregnant with opportunity and resources that, in the 1950s, it was promoted as “The Best Location in the Nation”?
One explanation is that Ashtabula County is in Ohio, one of only four states to lose jobs since the 2001 Recession.
“Certainly, things are not doing as well (in Ohio) as they have elsewhere,” says Bill LaFayette, economist for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
LaFayette says Ohio lost 2.9 percent of its jobs from 2001 to 2007. Massachusetts, Illinois and Michigan were the only other states to lose jobs.
In Ashtabula County, employment fell from 35,128 jobs in 2000 to 32,607 jobs in 2006, according to analysis of the local economy prepared by LaFayette, who used U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
What factors caused this bleeding? Alan Tonelson, an author and researcher with the U.S. Business and Industry Council in Washington, says the state is perceived as being “business unfriendly.”
“Taxes are high, and the state and county governments don’t do a good job promoting themselves,” he says.
Ron Clutter, owner of Nordic Air in Harpersfield Township, does business with vendors and customers all over the nation. He says there is definitely a perception about the state.