LIMA — Efforts to revitalize the economy and workforce in Lima and Allen County have already turned some heads at the state level, with a study on Ohio legacy cities released earlier this year commending local efforts in increasing labor participation rates. That trend was also highlighted in a second study recently released, which examines the current state of 24 legacy cities across seven states stretching from Indiana to Massachusetts.
“Revitalizing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities: Strategies for Postindustrial Success from Gary to Lowell” was recently published by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, chronicling the struggles of smaller, Rust-Belt cities in the midwest and northeast. Cities such as Lima, Flint, Michigan, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, with populations between 30,000 and 200,000, have struggled with declining populations and local economies having to shift away from a manufacturing base.
“The revitalization strategies that have been successful in larger places are not always translating directly into the context of small cities,” study co-author Torey Hollingsworth said. “Strategies that have worked in bigger places have to do with corporate headquarters or major research universities or hospitals, which are not likely to be in these smaller cities.”
While different cities have taken various approaches to revitalizing local economies, Hollingsworth was impressed with Lima’s approach to revitalization, highlighting efforts like MakerFest to encourage high school students to see manufacturing jobs as viable career paths.
“Lima is an example we cite in the report as a place that has sought workforce development in creative ways and has shown some success,” she said. “We talk about Link Lima/Allen County and how that’s an effort that is looking at both the private sector and public sector so that everyone is focused on workforce issues in ways that are complimentary.”
Allen Economic Development Group President and CEO Jeff Sprague was pleased to see these efforts highlighted on a greater scale. To sell legacy cities like Lima, it is often necessary to utilize a different formula from larger cities to attract both employers and workers.
“We have some unique and distinguishable advantages,” he said. “Our cost of living is ideal. The fact is, we’re big enough to make things happen but small enough to be agile. You can get to your child’s soccer game in a short period of time where in Columbus, that could take two hours. You can play those advantages and start to see growth happening.”
To read the report online, go to http://bit.ly/2wtV38r.