Local leaders say they are working to combat the bleak data released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this week showing a 20 percent plummet in median household income since 1999.
They say Lorain County has been attracting and retaining higher-paying jobs, a trend that should be shown in future Census data. It’s simply a slow rebuilding process after a rough recession, they say.
“It’s going to take some time, but it will increase,” said Don Romancak, director of Lorain County Community Development.
Lorain County Community Development facilitates investments through Lorain County commissioners and the Port Authority in area businesses, such as U.S. Steel and Republic Steel in Lorain.
Republic Steel already has made an $85 million investment in Lorain and will create approximately 400 jobs, which Romancak said will produce higher salaries for area workers.
Republic Steel isn’t the only company investing in Lorain County, said Avon Mayor Jim Smith, who added that Ohio has been experiencing more job growth in the past three years.
Ohio gained 18,400 jobs in June, making it the second-largest job growth state in the nation that month, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Smith said Avon has a mix of higher-paying jobs and minimum-wage jobs with the expansion of Cleveland Clinic healthcare facilities and retail and manufacturing jobs.
The problem with Ohio is that the state did little to retain jobs until recently, Smith said. Avon’s success comes from an investment in businesses, he added.
Avon collected more than $5 million in income taxes through June with no one company contributing more than 5 percent of that amount. Smith said the city is very “commercial and industrial friendly,” offering tax abatements to high-paying industrial and manufacturing jobs.
Until 2009, Ohio had been charging an inventory tax to businesses — a move Smith said likely hurt the industry. Since Ohio began phasing out the tax, the state has become more competitive with other states.
“We became very successful and very complacent,” Smith said, adding that city leaders must offer incentives to attract businesses to the area.
“I hope it turns up, but the companies that we lost, we lost. … It takes a lot to push somebody out, but it takes more to bring them back,” he said.
Now, cities like Lorain and Elyria are working with Team Lorain County to attract higher-paying businesses and retain jobs already in Lorain County. Elyria is also working with the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Committee and planning new transportation routes, and Lorain leaders hope to expand the city’s waterfront and downtown businesses.
But pulling in new businesses is more challenging than expanding current businesses, said Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo.
According to Steve Morey, president and CEO of Team Lorain County, 80 percent of new jobs come from current employers rather than new businesses.
“We spend a good deal of time working with our existing companies and helping them to grow,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Williams said often “party politics” come into play in regard to state funding for job growth.
“Honestly, we could be doing better than what we’ve had, but a lot of the local governments … have been really pushing to get jobs here,” he said.
Kalo said the county is working to build jobs lost during the recession with concessions for business owners and training programs for the workforce. He said the decrease in average wages is a nationwide problem, however, not a local one.
“It might be four to five years before we see significant gains,” he said.
There are programs that can help displaced workers, said Terri Burgess Sandu, executive director of workforce development at Lorain County Community College.
LCCC offers job-training programs for displaced workers and minorities, as well as those for budding entrepreneurs. Those interested in more information on programming can call the college at (440) 366-4076.
Sandu said careers in information technology, the energy sector, and welding and machinists jobs are still in high demand.
“What we frequently hear from employers is that there are not enough people with the specific skill sets that they need for the job openings they have,” she said.
Sandu said LCCC also works with employers to offer job-placement programs, such as its registered nurse program, which offers hands-on experience.
“That’s what we need and are working hard to do,” she said.
Romancak said it’s more of a waiting game for community leaders to determine if their efforts will make a difference the next time Census data is collected.
“The recession that we’ve experienced was severe. It did earn the nickname Great Recession for a reason,” he said. “We as a community have done everything we can, I believe.”
Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or email@example.com.