In job growth, Lorain County is significantly under-performing the state and the nation.
It lost 6,195 jobs from 2001 to 2016, according to a Lorain County Urban League economic forum held June 23 at the Hotel at Oberlin.
Jobs declined statewide as well, but only at a rate of 2.3 percent — and in the last 15 years, the nation grew 9.1 percent.
Kevin Alin is a representative of the Fund for Economic Future, formed in 2004 to transform the Northeast Ohio economy so it’s accessible and equitable for all residents.
He said that while growth is happening, it’s both slugging and not accessible to a broad range of people.
“If this trend continues, it’s going to be a challenge,” Alin said. “But the good news is, there are some real opportunities that sit underneath this data that we need to harness and understand to make growth occur.”
The Fund for Economic Future’s response is to focus on job creation, job preparation, and job access.
As of 2016, $11.6 billion in gross regional product is generated from Lorain County. That number measures the market value of all goods and services produced in the region.
While 40 percent comes from manufacturing, $762 million is effectively connected to health care, said Alin.
One year prior, the GRP was at $11.8 billion. Alin said the downturn is attributable to manufacturing, which has decreased by five percent year over year while heath care increased at four percent.
Despite losing 10,000 jobs, the manufacturing sector remains number one. “We need to expect this downward trend is going to continue and do something about it,” Alin said.
“Manufacturing is not dead. It’s not going to go and die tomorrow or in the next five years… the present and the future of manufacturing is under a tectonic plate shift. The question that is facing Lorain (County) is, how do we want to harness that change and participate in it?”
However, where there is growth, there is also decline, Alin said. Where the county saw significant loss is in the management of companies that are headquartered in the community.
Lorain County has a large number of production occupation opportunities, with the top 10 occupations in the region falling in the category. The average hourly wages are more than double the minimum wage.
While production job openings are plentiful, the occupations that are filled the most are in retail, cashiers, registered nurses, office clerks, and servers, where the hourly wages are around $12.
Alin suggests the county finds ways to increase the skills of local employees. If a business owner is looking to grow, but cannot find a skilled workforce, then business expansion, business attraction, and community growth are all limited.
“When we see growth, and growth that is unique to Lorain County, how do we better understand why that happening and how do we do more of it?” he asked.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.