Ohio’s Future Foundation, chaired by former Congressman Jim Renacci, has partnered with Walsh University to investigative whether small-town Ohio is dying.
The initiative comes on the heels of a New York Times article that declared small-town America is dead, and those remaining should move to the cities. But Ohio’s Future Foundation and Walsh University want to tour the state to receive feedback on the issue, and plan to issue a report on what can be done to reverse the trends.
“Our goal is really to hear the voices of the people and then kind of put together a report that sort of provides solutions and opportunities that cities could follow or choose to pick from as they set forth their future planning and strategy as it relates to the future of their communities,” a representative from Walsh University said at a recent event in Massillon, Ohio.
“I think it’s important to realize that if you’re going to be a city or a community inside the state, you need to know where your state ranks, and if your state ranks today 39th and it was 35th just a couple years ago, clearly the state overall is not going in the best direction,” Renacci said during the forum.
He put the issue for small-towns in perspective: cities and towns compete for funding from the state, while the state competes with other states for funding from the federal government. Cities and towns, meanwhile, need employees to boost their businesses, but Ohio is experiencing the seventh-highest rate of outbound migration in the nation, according to Renacci.
“If you have problems, you first have to recognize your problem and then you have to make a decision,” Renacci said in framing the discussion. “Ohio has stagnated over the years, and other states are growing.”
“If you’re going to generate revenue in a state or in a city, you got to have business,” he continued, noting that Ohio ranks at the bottom for most new-business filings. Renacci encouraged skepticism of the “record” new-business filings in Ohio, since new businesses don’t necessarily have any employees.
He also noted that towns across Ohio, like Portsmouth and Steubenville, are experiencing shrinking populations, while others, such as Dublin, are seeing population growth.
Renacci then opened things up for discussion, asking attendees what they believe some of the highlights and challenges are of living in a small town.
The conversation that followed can be watched below:
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