LIMA — Lima may lose its designation as a “Metropolitan” area, and with it, funding for a number of housing, transportation and Medicare reimbursement programs.
The Office of Management and Budget is considering a proposal that would make the core city in a metropolitan area have at least 100,000 people, doubling its previous requirement of 50,000. Lima’s population checks in at 72,852.
“Presently Lima/Allen County is considered a Tier 3 Metropolitan with a population between 50,000 and 200,000. Lima is considered a Metropolitan by the inclusion of the surrounding townships in Allen County,” said Dave Stratton, president/CEO of Allen Economic Development Group. “The consideration of a Third Tier Metropolitan changing to 100,000 or more would downgrade Lima to a Micropolitan status.”
Right now, it’s just a proposal, said Shane Coleman, executive director of the Lima/Allen County Regional Planning Commission.
“They’re seeking comments. So nothing has been approved at this point. Obviously, there’s some concern, and we’re watching very closely,” said Coleman. “We don’t know all of the implications that might be there if a change is enacted. This is some work that was prompted back in the fall with the previous administration. It was submitted right prior to the inauguration. So I’m not sure where a new administration might go with this. Time will tell.”
Lima and 143 other cities that are now metropolitan could lose that status. A number of housing, transportation and Medicare reimbursement programs are tied to communities being metropolitan statistical areas.
Lima Mayor David Berger is concerned about what it means for funding formulas.
“Putting communities that are now in one category into a smaller community category, and you assume that funding levels for both state and federal programs don’t change, then that means we’re all competing for a fixed size of a pie that is not growing,” said David Berger. “Consequently, that means less resources, not just for ourselves, but also for those that are already in that category. So this, I think, long term has the potential to be very disruptive, to resources that have been available to cities of our size.”
The micropolitan designation could adversely affect economic development efforts in the region.
“A key element in the attraction of companies to a location and the capital investment of present companies is the emphasis on population and workforce availability,” Stratton said. “A designation as a metropolitan area helps to put an emphasis on the potential workforce to fill the needs of that interested company.
“Another consideration in a potential change of Lima/Allen County to a Micropolitan status would be the concern of a reduction of incentives and economic development tools available to assist business growth and attraction. At AEDG we are consistently looking for positive assistance for the growth of our businesses, which ultimately is good for the community and the residents of Allen County.”
Many cities were caught flat-footed by the prospect of losing their metropolitan status.
“We’re going to have to study what this is, we’ll have to be talking with communities, both larger and smaller than ourselves to understand the ramifications, and then engaging in a discussion of what this means,” said Berger. “Things that appear to be simple on the surface, become pretty complex, much like dominoes. The first one that falls trips, a whole series of others and as a result, it could have really unpredictable consequences.”
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.