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


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.

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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

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  • 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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