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2009 Dashboard Shows Improvement in Key Economic Indicators

CLEVELAND--Aug. 12, 2009--Each of Northeast Ohio’s four metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) improved in the rankings since 2000 in a key indicator of future economic growth, according the new Dashboard of Economic Indicators issued today.

The Dashboard measures the economic performance of the region’s four MSAs (Akron, Canton-Massillon, Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor and Youngstown-Warren-Boardman) and 132 other markets and ranks each market’s performance in nine factors correlated with economic growth. One of the most important factors is called “Skilled Workforce and Research & Development,” which assesses the educational attainment and skill level of a metropolitan area’s workforce and the amount of research and development spending that is occurring in the region. The Dashboard, commissioned by the Fund for Our Economic Future, was issued by the Center for Economic Development at Cleveland State University (CSU). The complete Dashboard report is available on the Fund’s web site, www.futurefundneo.org.

Akron ranked highest among the four Northeast Ohio communities at 58 and the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor MSA was close behind at 61 in the rankings that used data from 2007, the most recent year available. Both have improved compared to their rankings from the base year of 2000, when Akron ranked 74 and Cleveland ranked 66. Canton moved to 113 from 119 and Youngstown rose to 124 from 128.

The Skilled Workforce and R&D factor is closely correlated with growth in per capita income. All four MSAs in Northeast Ohio experienced higher rates of growth between 2004-07 than they did in 2003-06. However, that growth continued to lag behind most of the country.

“Northeast Ohio is making progress in the key areas of attracting more research dollars and elevating the educational attainment of our residents,” said Fund President Brad Whitehead. “The region will need to sustain that progress over the long term for it to translate into higher incomes and more economic growth.”

The Fund is a philanthropic collaboration that works to strengthen the region’s economic competitiveness through research, grantmaking and civic engagement.

The Dashboard found, as has been the case in previous years, that the region’s four MSAs lagged behind the rest of the nation’s economic performance in terms of income and employment growth from 2004 through 2007. But the region did show signs of progress. For example, if the four MSAs were treated as one, its collective ranking in per capita income growth would have been 88 in the 2004-07 period vs. a 93 ranking in 2003-06. Both Akron and Cleveland were third quartile performers in per capita income growth, but Youngstown and Canton were in the fourth quartile.

Only Akron was in the third quartile for employment growth in that time frame. The other three metropolitan areas were in the fourth quartile.

Ziona Austrian, director of CSU’s Center for Economic Development, said the latest version of the Dashboard shows the region is making progress, but is unclear how the region will fare after the present recession ends. She noted that the economic data for the most recent Dashboard was collected before the economic downturn began.

“The region’s economic development initiatives that have been in place for the past five years appear to be having an impact,” Austrian said. “The region’s economy, which has been a laggard for several decades, faces long-term challenges, but this study may be pointing to early signs of progress.”

She cautioned that the Northeast Ohio metropolitan areas, along with other Midwest metropolitan areas, continue to struggle at generating job growth.

“None of the metropolitan areas in the Midwest or Northeast were leaders in employment growth,” Austrian said. “Long-standing economic factors, such as a heavy dependence on the automotive industry, continue to limit job growth in the Midwest. The first steps toward turning around the economy in the Midwest are increasing innovation, educational attainment and entrepreneurship. Northeast Ohio is beginning to make strides in those areas but more progress is needed.”

The nine common growth factors measured in the study are:

  • Skilled Workforce and R&D – Measures the quality of a region’s labor force and advanced research activities.
  • Technology Commercialization – Primarily focuses on patents and venture capital in a region.
  • Racial Inclusion & Income Equality – Measures poverty and racial segregation.
  • Urban Assimilation – Measures a region’s ethnic diversity.
  • Legacy of Place – Reflects a region’s demographic, social and economic history.
  • Business Dynamics – Measures the ratio of business openings to closings in a region.
  • Individual Entrepreneurship – Measures the size of a region’s small business sector.
  • Locational Amenities – Evaluates quality of life in a region.
  • Urban/Metro Structure – Measures safety and the share of the central city in its region.

In addition to the improvement in the Skilled Workforce and R&D factor, the region improved over the previous year’s Dashboard in the areas of Technology Commercialization and Racial Inclusion & Income Equality. Both of those factors are also tied to growth in per capita income. There was a slight decline in the region’s Urban Assimilation ranking and the region was relatively stable in the other factors.

  ABOUT THE FUND FOR OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE

The Fund for Our Economic Future is a collaboration of more than 100 foundations, organizations and philanthropists from across Northeast Ohio that strengthens the region’s economic competitiveness through grantmaking, civic engagement and research.

For more information, contact:

Chris ThompsonFund for Our Economic Future216-925-4902 (office)216-215-0329 (cell)cthompson@futurefundneo.org