LIMA — While an updated report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center, a Columbus-based policy think tank, shows that Ohio’s small cities have shown declines in workforce size and declining economic health in the last 15 years, Lima may be showing some signs of turning things around.
One of 15 small cities with populations between 20,000 and 65,000 included in the report, Lima is the sole small city to see an improvement in workforce participation rates from 2000 to 2015, according to GOPC Executive Director Alison Goebel.
“We are very impressed with Link Lima and the work that the Allen Economic Development Group is doing,” she said. “However, if you look at all the cities we looked at, including Toledo and Dayton, when you look at Lima in that broader category, labor force participation is higher than about half of those in that cohort of small and mid-range cities, but it’s still below average overall.”
That being said, Goebel is encouraged with workforce development initiatives in Lima, believing that the work happening now is helping to put the area in a better position going forward.
“From 2014 to 2015, Lima saw some of the most positive trends out of any of the small and mid-sized cities we looked at,” she said. “Lima had one of the greatest increases out of all of the cities in labor force participation rates, one of the largest declines in unemployment and among the greatest growth in both per capita and household income. That being said, one year does have a larger margin for error.”
Allen Economic Development Group CEO Jeff Sprague is encouraged by the positive workforce trends Lima is now seeing, as exemplified by expansions at facilities such as Lima Pallet Co., which is working to add more than 50 new jobs. However, with Ohio’s population remaining stagnant, it is an uphill battle to increase an area workforce.
“It’s like trying to divide a pie into smaller pieces,” he said. “The population base is not keeping up with workforce needs.”
However, with initiatives like Link Lima, Makerfest and greater participation in the Ohio Means Jobs online job postings, Sprague is optimistic that not only will more young people remain in the area to make a living, but more people from outside the Lima area will be drawn in.
“Our companies here are showing the need to grow,” he said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.