LIMA — Now that the clocks have shifted, it’s time to say hello to the 2020s, a new decade with new challenges and new opportunities.
But before 2010 can be retired, there’s one last task worth doing. In order to get a better idea of where the region is headed, let’s review the local numbers on one of the most controversial decades in recent memory. An analysis of federal and local data helps show where the region’s heading over the next decade.
Demographics and age
If there’s one factor that will have major influences across the region in the next decade, it has to be age.
In the last decade, the United States aged up across the board, and those effects will reverberate even stronger in the next decade, especially in the Lima area, as seniors continue to make up larger percentages of the total population.
Here are some likely trends:
• The baby boomers began to retire en masse in the 2010s, and by the end of the 2020s, the change-up will have wide-ranging consequences.
• Many businesses — especially those already desperate for workers — will encourage their baby boomers to prolong retirement. Some will be pushed into part-time work to forgo a full retirement, and the younger generations will most likely feel a little raw about the whole situation as they’ve sought a stronger voice for years now.
• Relatedly, many community leaders may retire after decades of service. For example, Lima Mayor David Berger will have held his position for the last 32 years by 2021, and if 2017 was any indicator, the next Lima mayoral race will likely be a hotly contested one.
• Age will also have some major influences on housing, health care and transportation infrastructure. More older people means more pressure on the services that they use, and local hospitals have already seen increased needs among the senior population.
• The lack of public transportation, especially in rural areas, will cause plenty of headaches for those who may not have reliable transportation as they age. In fact, any sort of organization dealing largely with the senior population will see expanded need across the board.
• This also means there will be many more older women in the post-70 age groups throughout the county. Longevity drops for men after hitting that age. Census numbers for the county show that women outnumber men after hitting 80 by a 2-to-1 ratio.
• More older people also means the younger generation will start seeing more houses on the market, as deaths due to old age free up property. That shift, however, could play out a few ways. Younger buyers could flatly refuse to buy such houses. Vacancy rates are already creeping up in Allen County. The latest numbers estimate more than 10% of residential houses are vacant in the county — up from 6% in 2010 — and more people are foregoing home purchases in order to rent, exemplified by increasing rental rates.
• At the same time, most of those looking for homes are finding them outside of City of Lima’s limits, moving into smaller yet vibrant communities, such as Bluffton, Wapakoneta and other rural areas. In fact, there’s been a notable shifting of the population away from Lima proper, as more and more settle in outlying towns, neighboring townships and some rural areas.
• On the other side of the age scale, Lima has been able to attract a number of 20-year-olds looking to fill the gap created by an increased manufacturing workforce, but there could be some issues when it comes to retaining them in the area. Of note is the gender imbalance among 20-year-olds. Census numbers estimate that 20-year-old males outnumber 20-year-old females at a 123-to-100 ratio in Allen County, meaning 1,500 young men will most likely be looking elsewhere when they wish to start a family.
The year 2010 limped onto the scene after suffering one of the largest setbacks in economic growth in American history. The Great Recession shrunk both private and public organizations through mass layoffs and upset the plans of millions of Americans due to a major implosion of the housing bubble.
Much of the past decade has been the story of Americans working through the damages. On the federal level, a $831 billion stimulus plan was approved to encourage job growth and investment, but overall growth has been notoriously sluggish throughout the decade, as the GDP growth rate failed to jump any higher than 2.9% back in 2015 and 2018. Today, all those baby steps have created better economic times for many, especially due to the ever-tightening job market.
Here are some trends worthy of note.
• Locally, the last decade (measured from 2000 to 2018, as latest numbers haven’t been released) added $3,949 to Allen County’s per capita income, bringing it up to $25,662 by 2018. In comparison, Ohio’s per capita income in 2018 was tallied at $30,304. Further number crunching shows that Allen County’s income growth was slightly lower than Ohio’s. Per capita income is measured as total payroll averaged by population.
• That growth, however, did allow roughly 2,000 people to leave poverty status when comparing the beginning and end of the decade.
• Looking past the last decade, the other major economic trend affecting the region comes from the region’s relationship with the manufacturing sector. In 1970, just less than a third of total Allen County jobs were located in manufacturing. Today, that percentage has fallen to 21.5% — a number comparable to other Rust Belt counties, such as Richland County — due to international market pressures and increasing automation.
Other counties in the region, such as Auglaize and Mercer counties, have been able to keep the number of manufacturing jobs as a higher percentage of their total economies. Interestingly, out of the counties neighboring Allen County, those two have seen some of the most success in terms of retaining their populations.
• As for the economy of the future, economic trends of the past aren’t super helpful. While manufacturing has seen a resurgence in recent years, the sector — at least nationally — has exhibited some signs of a slowdown in the latter half of 2019. Even so, it’s very safe to say the region will most likely remain a manufacturing powerhouse. All those UNOH, Apollo and Vantage students earning technical manufacturing skills will find a healthy job market paying well in the local area. Per capita income will likely continue to rise as well, but at what rate remains to be seen.
• Looking at the economy through the number of local businesses shows a slightly different portrait. The number of businesses has continued to shrink throughout the last decade, as larger businesses make up a larger percentage of the total.
• Relatedly, the number of businesses with fewer than five employees has been trending downward since 1990. If that continues, dollars will increasingly be concentrated with larger businesses. Again, that trend could be related to the region’s aging demographic since younger people are usually the ones taking the risk with a new business.
• Crime is going down and has been going down since at least the 1970s — locally and nationwide — but Lima’s crime rate is still higher than in the surrounding counties. That aligns, however, with the general rural/urban divide that shows up in crime rates, and Lima is much safer than it was when most people in the area were growing up.
• Lima’s downtown is in a much better position than where it was a decade ago. A number of microbreweries — a type of establishment that has been popular throughout the United States for at least two decades now — are set to open soon. Other improvements on the edge of coming to fruition include the upcoming expansion of Rhodes State College, multiple business investments and the Rotary’s amphitheater project. They’ll join a bevy of new businesses established this past decade.
• Politically, if trends continue, the national discourse will most likely be exceptionally toxic. While some expect the federal government to get a hold on spending levels, prior history has said otherwise. Future generations will most likely be saddled with an exorbitant national debt and reduced social support programs.
“Downtown Lima Inc. is excited to be a part of the many new developments taking shape in the downtown area, from small niche businesses to culinary options, to educational and entertainment facilities and residential spaces. We look forward to collaborating with our current members and partners, and hope to expand our membership in 2020 with like-minded Lima enthusiasts. Facing the new decade, we hope to tap into the love that people clearly have for Lima, its establishments, its history and its future.”
Director, Downtown Lima, Inc.
“The Ohio State University at Lima is becoming a destination campus! Our goal is to become THE preferred university and campus in west central Ohio for traditional and non-traditional students. As a faculty and staff we are ‘rising up’ to meet this challenge and we are seeking new ways to engage and activate the Buckeye Nation in 2020 and beyond to meet the needs of our students, our community and our work force. We believe that Ohio State Lima’s best years are ahead of us!”
PhD, MSW, Dean and Director, The Ohio State University at Lima
“The framework is in place for economic development growth and success for Lima/Allen County for the 2020s. Significant capital investment, land availability, workforce development, and collaborative partnerships have positioned the region to meet the challenges of the next decade.”
President/CEO, Allen Economic Development Group
“Wow, it is so hard to imagine how much will change the next 10 years as we constantly see growth in so many areas, especially in technology and transportation. I predict that, due to growth in both of those areas, your Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center will continue to improve our services through new technical abilities. We are a region filled with possibilities and we strive for growth with a want of sustaining strong partnerships with all of our customers. We look to the future in enhancing arts programming as well as playing host to many community members’ most important day of their year or at times, life for their special events.”
CEO, Veterans Memorial Civic Center
“At Ohio Northern, we are preparing for these demographic realities in several ways: by maintaining a focus on affordable, quality undergraduate and graduate education leading to high job placement and graduate and professional school admissions rates, by considering enrolling more nontraditional students who have some college credit but not a bachelor’s degree, by controlling costs so we can invest in both new and existing academic programs to continue offering a relevant program mix in professional fields and the arts and sciences, by focusing more on technology to harness the opportunities of digital information and learning, and by enhancing our efforts help students become engaged citizens.”
President, Ohio Northern University
“For the next decade, I am looking forward to the continuing revitalization of our downtown and neighborhoods, with housing investments and businesses becoming rooted once again in our center city and the local manufacturing industries remaining strong and creating the demand for new and youthful talent for P&G, Husky, Ineos, Nutrien, Ford, General Dynamics, and others while energizing our community. Investments being made by our hospitals and educational institutions will stimulate growth in the city, fostering health care and emerging digital technology careers that will position Lima as a leading medical, education, and technology hub for the region. As I look back over the past decade, I am proud of what our community has been able to accomplish together and look forward to continuing our positive momentum into the next decade.”
Mayor, City of Lima
“Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center recently celebrated 101 years of compassionating caring and expertly treating residents in the greater Lima community. As we look to a new decade and another century of care, we are committed to continuing our legacy while advancing health in our region. Specifically, Mercy Health has invested in Graduate Medical Education to ensure that we have a pipeline of new providers. Over the upcoming decade, we will have realized full enrollment in four new GME programs, including Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and General Surgery, which not only benefits our patients, but will also have a positive impact on our local economy.”
President, Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center
“The next decade is full of growth for Lima Memorial Health System and our region. We are proud to be a leader in addressing our community’s health needs. As we look to the decade ahead, we have planned our growth to meet the need for access to affordable, convenient care. Even more, we are investing in technologies, programs and services to offer highly specialized care, close to home. With the full completion of our $30 million expansion project, we are confident our innovative approach will meet the healthcare needs of our region, keeping health care local for decades to come.”
President and CEO, Lima Memorial Health System
“I am very optimistic that Allen County, with our current elected officials, is positioned to prosper in this new decade. They have the fortitude to prepare for the future and the experience to laterally make necessary adjustments to assure Allen County continues to strengthen our job market and create opportunities for all.”
Executive Chairman, Allen County Republican Party
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.