Last updated: August 24. 2013 6:55PM - 553 Views

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If you feel like you keep seeing the same people everywhere you go in town, I have a possible explanation: There are fewer people here, so of course youre seeing the same people.

Lima had 377 fewer people in July in it than it did in July 2010, according to the U.S. Censuss American Community Survey estimates released last week. That means 1 percent of Limas population packed up and moved away in that two-year span.

I dont want to sound too large of an alarm. After all, it would take 204 years of that losing 188 people annually before Lima would be a ghost town. But looking at numbers around the region makes you wonder if we have a real quality-of-life issue here worth discussing.

The population estimates went up in just seven communities in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties, or 19.4 percent of the places counted, and they werent by big numbers: Delphos (10 more people), Kalida (nine), Glandorf (four), Miller City (three), Waynesfield (three), Minster (one) and New Bremen (one). In comparison, 12 communities lost at least 10 people, or what Delphos gained.

The largest growth just outside that predetermined three-county window was Van Wert, with its plus-25 people living on Indianas doorstep.

Im a percentages kind of guy. I think it gives more clarity to what numbers mean. So chew on this number for a bit: Sixteen local communities lost more than 1 percent of their population in the past two years.

Theyre just numbers, of course, and in many cases theyre small numbers divided by small numbers. Is West Leipsic losing one person each of the last two years really proof of the decline of Western civilization? No, but that 1 percent decline in the small village looks bad.

But some numbers have to concern you, such as Ada dropping 152 people, or 2.6 percent of its population. Bluffton lost 2 percent of its population, or 84 people. The former Fort Shawnee area lost 1.5 percent of its population, or 54 people.

Id like to blame these numbers on the trend toward smaller families, but Ohio as a whole isnt suffering the same fate as these local communities. Statewide, 256 communities gained population, or 27.3 percent of them. The places with the biggest gains were in Central Ohio, where you can find five of the top six, including Columbus (19,342), Hilliard (2,233), Dublin (1,406), Grove City (1,102) and Delaware (983).

People must want to live there, right? Not exactly. Bowling Green had the fourth-biggest population growth in that two-year span, with 1,336 more people. Nearby Findlay grew too, by 398 people.

These numbers by themselves arent cause for panic, but its been a downward trend for years. We should look at what these growing places have and learn from them.

Our regions unemployment rate continues to be among the best in the state, so its not strictly a jobs thing. Most of our school systems rate well on state report cards, so its not a concern about education offered. We have decent shopping, and we have decent restaurants, although you sometimes have to search out both of those.

Our biggest obstacle may be our own mentality. How often have you heard people crow about how great this area is, only to include a line about how close we are to Columbus, Dayton, Fort Wayne, Ind., or Toledo? Im all for exit strategies in military actions, but Im not sure its a great recruitment tool.

We need serious, constructive discussion about how to reverse this trend before its too late. Lets hear it, Lima. At this rate, we have 204 years to solve this problem before its too late.

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