May 26, 2013
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 youíre seeing the same people.
Lima had 377 fewer people in July in it than it did in July 2010, according to the U.S. Censusís American Community Survey estimates released last week. That means 1 percent of Limaís population packed up and moved away in that two-year span.
I donít 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 werenít 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 Indianaís doorstep.
Iím 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.
Theyíre just numbers, of course, and in many cases theyíre 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.
Iíd like to blame these numbers on the trend toward smaller families, but Ohio as a whole isnít 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 arenít cause for panic, but itís been a downward trend for years. We should look at what these growing places have and learn from them.
Our regionís unemployment rate continues to be among the best in the state, so itís not strictly a jobs thing. Most of our school systems rate well on state report cards, so itís 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? Iím all for exit strategies in military actions, but Iím not sure itís a great recruitment tool.
We need serious, constructive discussion about how to reverse this trend before itís too late. Letís hear it, Lima. At this rate, we have 204 years to solve this problem before itís too late.