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


But Tonelson says the trend in “new business” is actually fire sales of existing Ohio and Midwest businesses to foreign investors. Just last week, the acquisition by two Canadian firms of two Ashtabula County plastics companies – one in bankruptcy and one that was for sale – was announced by Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County.

“In a lot of Ohio and the Midwest, manufacturing executives are feeling that the U.S. Government has let them down to such a great extent, they are seriously thinking about getting out,” Tonelson says. “They don’t want to go through the aggravation of trying to succeed when their federal government is holding them back.”

Thanks to federal trade policies, many Ohio manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and south, resulting in a huge impact on per capita income. Tonelson says manufacturing has traditionally been “that sector that, in the history of America, allowed the person with average skills and education to enjoy the middle-class lifestyle.”

That’s an issue that hits close to home. Ashtabula County’s economy lost 134 jobs when Alphabet, formerly located in Orwell, moved its operations to Mexico and India. This year, Conneaut will have to deal with the closing of the General Electric plant and the loss of several dozen good-paying jobs there.

Tonelson feels both local and state economic development people have not come to grips with just how devastating these free-trade agreements have been to the American way of life and the economic condition of the nation.

“It’s clear to the regional leaders that something has gone wrong, but … that does not seem to have filtered down to the municipalities, county and local levels,” Tonelson says.

Working poor

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, northeast Ohio lost 45,481 manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2006. LaFayette says those numbers are deceiving, however, because manufacturing is actually a healthy industry in Ohio.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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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