Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Northeast Ohio Needs Pittsburgh

The economic geography of Cleveburgh maps neatly onto the political geography of the corridor. In other words, the boundary between Ohio and Pennsylvania shows up starkly when looking at indicators of how well counties are weathering the Great Recession. But the economic disparity needn't be the case:

In Western Pennsylvania, the move to rebuild an economy through diversification took hold more quickly and more firmly. The Valley and our northeastern corridor of the state have been playing catchup, but it’s clearly not too late to stir up our pot with Pennsylvania’s recipes for success.

To their credit, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-17th of Niles, and Jason Altmire, D-4th of McCandless, whose districts border each other, have collaborated to promote a “Tech Belt” in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio that they envision will create jobs in advanced services and industries throughout the Cleveland-Pittsburgh megalopolis. ...

... And locally, efforts toward redefining the Mahoning Valley’s economic base have gained ground. For example, Ryan recently secured $2 million in a bill for construction of the Warren Business Incubator, which will be used to hatch and expand businesses focused on clean technology, alternative energy and green building materials. Its model will be the Youngstown Business Incubator, whose success in hatching internationally recognized software manufacturer Turning Technologies, serves as one of the Mahoning Valley’s best examples of maturing to a more diverse information-based economy.

I gather that my civic boosterism makes me the Pollyanna of Greater Youngstown. But a lot of the problems holding back Northeast Ohio have plagued communities in Western Pennsylvania. Being a native of Erie, PA, I'm aware of Youngstown's reputation. Most of you probably have no idea why my Erie roots given me insight into Youngstown. Likely, you aren't aware of the political corruption that has hobbled my hometown. Nor would you know much about the influence of Youngstown on the Erie economy. And you haven't met many of the political cynics covering the shady dealings in Pittsburgh.

My point is that one shouldn't blame "business-as-usual" for the contrasts in economic fortunes between, say, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. What's going on at the Youngstown Business Incubator is nothing short of astounding. It's time to rally around a nationally recognized success story and forget why the region is supposed to be doomed. Get behind the efforts of Tim Ryan and his Tech Belt initiative. Connect with Defend Youngstown and I WILL SHOUT YOUNGSTOWN. Living in far away in Colorado doesn't do much for my credibility. But there are like-minded Pollyannas who know intimately the struggles Youngstown faces.

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