Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Economic Crisis: The Local View

We’ve all been hearing daily about the economic crisis in the US. But how is that playing out here in the Mahoning Valley? To help us get a clearer picture of the local situation, I spoke with Larry Ringler, the Business Editor for the Warren Tribune Chronicle. Because he covers stories about all aspects of business and labor in our area, Larry knows what’s going on and has a clear sense of the challenges and prospects.

The Mahoning Valley has been in economic crisis for so long that we almost can’t call it a crisis anymore. High unemployment rates, low home prices, and economic uncertainty are almost normal conditions here. While that gives area residents and the community itself some resilience, we’re also in some ways more vulnerable than others. We have fewer reserve resources to draw upon, not only as individuals but also as a community. It may well be that, as John Russo wrote in the Working-Class Perspectives blog, the rest of the country is learning what Youngstown has learned over the last 30 years, but 30 years of struggle can make you both tough and tired.

Yet, as Larry suggests, we have some reasons to hope, as new technologies develop. The economic stimulus package may also help us develop some of the infrastructure we need – not just nicer roads but also new technological capabilities – to develop new industries.

I was interested in a poll released this past weekend suggesting that Americans are at once deeply pessimistic about the economy and very optimistic about what President Obama can accomplish. For the nation, it seems, this might be a moment of change. Perhaps it can also become a period of change for the Mahoning Valley.

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