Friday, January 29, 2010

Help Wanted: Thousands of Jobs for the Valley

This week on Lincoln Avenue, I'm talking with Chris Litton, head of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber Foundation.  The Foundation's job is to help bring new businesses to the Mahoning Valley and to help existing businesses grow.  They do that by working with local government, the business community, and individual business owners to create the conditions that will entice companies to locate and expand here. 

As I was talking with Chris, I kept thinking about two things.  First, while I think most local leaders understand that the best answer to our community's economic woes is to support the development of many, many small businesses, the idea that a knight-in-shining-armor company will swoop in and rescue us still has power.  The challenge for those like Chris who work on the ground in economic development is to embrace the significance of every job, but without losing sight of the area's persistently-high unemployment and poverty rates.  So, yes, we should celebrate when a new company comes into the Business Incubator and hires 20 people with college degrees, we should keep scouring for companies that might open a small factory that would hire 200 high school graduates. 

That gets us to the second issue: systemic barriers to economic growth.  The Chamber, the YBI, local government, and the University can only do so much to address the economic problems of the area, because creating jobs is only half of the issue.  We also need to address problems of education, transportation, and racism -- issues that create obstacles for many who need jobs the most.  We need people working on both sides of the economic equation. 

1 comment:

Jan Crews said...

Sherry, I heard on the news this week that passenger rail is in the works for Cleveland/Dayton/Columbus/Cincinnati. Why isn't Youngstown included in that scheme? For those of us with skill or educational levels who can only find jobs in Akron or Cleveland, but want to live in Youngstown, how great would it be to be able to ride a commuter train to work?