Monday, April 29, 2002

Manufacturing's decline knocked Ohio from national prominence

Enquirer staff and news services

        DAYTON, Ohio — A century ago, Ohio enjoyed political and economic clout, with the fourth-largest delegation in Congress, a native son in the White House and its industrialists helping transform the nation.

        Today, that influence is gone, and the state is struggling to catch up in the new service-based, high-technology economy.

        “How Ohio is perceived and how it functions, in contrast to 100 years earlier, is just a dramatic difference,” Ohio historian George W. Knepper told the Dayton Daily News for a story Sunday.

        “I don't see the end of the slide right at the moment,” he said.

        That slide has become an issue in the upcoming gubernatorial election, the newspaper said.

        Republican Gov. Bob Taft is campaigning both to keep his seat and to push his planned 10-year, $1.6 billion Third Frontier Project, meant to nudge Ohio into the 21st century economy. He hopes to put a $500 million bond issue to fund the project before voters next year.

        “We're not moving fast enough to keep pace with our competitors or replace jobs lost to productivity,” Taft said.

        Tim Hagan, the Democrat challenging Taft in November, said Taft has been too slow to focus on technology and education, and bluntly assessed the proposed fix.

        “What are we securing?” Hagan asked. “A second-class state.”

        Taft disputed that, telling the newspaper the state is second in the country at creating factory jobs for exports. But he warned of a bleak future without his project.

        “If we commit this investment in Ohio's future, we can transform our economy,” he said. “If we do not, Ohio will not be a leader in the 21st century.”

        The newspaper compiled several examples of the political and economic decline:

        —From 1868 to 1924, seven of 10 presidents were Ohioans. Sen. John Glenn, as an astronaut and statesman, possibly eclipsed them all.

        Today, Ohio's best known politician is U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. The rambunctious Youngstown Democrat was convicted this month on corruption and bribery charges and faces expulsion from the House.

        “If you include notoriety, James Traficant would qualify as the best-known Ohioan,” said Wright State University political scientist Robert Adams.

        —Ohio ranked 44th among the 50 states in population growth from 1990 to 2000, according to the 2000 Census. Population, businesses and power have shifted to the South and Southwest.

        Because of the stagnant population, Ohio's delegation to the U.S. House shrinks this year from 19 to 18 members, the smallest contingent since the 1820s.

        —There are 28 Ohio companies on the 2001 Fortune 500 list, down from 43 at the manufacturing peak in 1969. The list has since expanded to include service as well as industrial companies.

        —Ohio ranked 34th among the states in the increased value of goods and services produced from 1988-98.

        —Since the peak in manufacturing employment in 1969, Ohio has lost nearly 400,000 high-paying factory jobs. The state now ranks 25th in median family income, down from 12th in 1969.

        Also, the gap between the wealthiest and poorest families in Ohio grew at the fifth-fastest rate among the states over 20 years, according to a report released this week by two Washington D.C.-based research firms.

        —While workers likely need college education to train for the new economy, low public spending and high tuition are making it harder for some to attend. The state ranks 41st in the percentage of residents 25 or older with bachelor's degrees and 40th in per-capita higher education spending.

        A national study from the 1997-98 school year found only six states charged more for tuition. That was before recent tuition increases at Ohio State, Wright State, Ohio and Miami universities.

        “There are too many signs that Ohio's working population lacks the education and, more importantly, the skills necessary to excel in the contemporary global economy,” according to a report by the Technology Action Board, appointed by Taft in 1999.


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