Population Loss and the Drivers of the Local Economy

By the Akron Beacon Journal editorial board

Jason Segedy has a practical way of looking at the problem of population loss. The city planning director sees a Northeast Ohio region of 4 million people and imagines attracting 4,000, or just one-tenth of 1 percent, to move into Akron. That is a realistic goal, the city returning to slightly above 200,000 people.

It also would represent a significant departure, arresting the steady population falloff of the past five decades, the city losing almost 100,000 residents. When analysts talk about the city managing well its decline, these are the numbers they have in mind. Akron has fared better than other aging industrial cities. What Segedy argues, correctly and refreshingly, is that the city must not settle for such management.

So, how to attract 4,000 people?

It requires approaches on multiple fronts, for instance, involving housing, neighborhoods, entrepreneurship, downtown, immigration and education. A major piece concerns economic development and job creation, which practically everyone grasps yet often proves difficult to deliver. Amanda Weinstein, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Akron, put it well in talking with Rick Armon, a Beacon Journal staff writer: The challenge requires sustained focus and energy — for many years.

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