August 11, 2008

Forbes Magazine Claims Canton, Ohio Is Dying

Local officials dispute magazine's analysis
UPDATE: 2:37 PM, Wednesday, August 6, 2008
By G. PATRICK KELLEY
REPOSITORY BUSINESS EDITOR
cantonrep.com

Canton is getting unwanted national attention after Forbes.com put the city and three others in Ohio on its "America's Fastest-Dying Cities" list.

Although Canton got the tag and the title, the figures the magazine actually used come from the U.S. Census Bureau's Canton-Massillon metropolitan statistical area, which includes all of Stark and Carroll counties.

"They're trying to sell magazines, and I understand that," said Mayor William J. Healy II. "They're using numbers from 2001 and 2005," and "I don't particularly care to talk about the past anymore" because he campaigned on changing things, the mayor said.

"There's no doubt the economy's off, not only here in Stark County, but across the country," said Todd Bosley, one of the three Stark County commissioners. "We're working to address economic development. There's a lot of good things going on here now."

THREE OTHERS FROM OHIO

Youngstown, Dayton and Cleveland also made the list, giving Ohio the most cities on the 10-city list. Michigan was second, with Detroit and Flint. Forbes did not rank a No. 1 or differentiate the 10 chosen.

"Despite a decade of national prosperity, the former manufacturing backbone of the U.S. is in rougher shape than ever, still searching for some way to replace its long-stilled smokestacks," wrote Forbes Washington correspondent Joshua Zumbrun.

That's going to change, said Healy.

"There are hundreds of millions of dollars in development money on the table, and that's going to be the beginning of the turnaround for Canton," he said.

"We're coming off one of the biggest and most successful Hall of Fame festivals we've ever had ... that's the type of thing that's going to help us," he said.

Healy said there's even more exciting news for the area. The National Football League and the Pro Football Hall of Fame have combined to help bring the Junior American Football World Games here in 2009. Eight international teams will compete in the last week of June and the first week of July.

He also cited the new federal building, the Onesto Hotel and the Hercules project as developments that will change downtown.

PLAY TO STRENGTHS

Bosley said the area needs to sell its attributes: Good water, a good labor force, Akron-Canton Airport and the highway system.

"We've worked to improve the infrastructure even during the down years," he said.

There are always going to be down years, but "you change that by attracting companies to employ people. We're laying out a plan to bring companies to Stark County. We can change it. It's just going to take some time."

The brief Forbes story on Canton said that 7,807 people have left since 2000, but the total population is 212 higher. The area's annual gross domestic product growth of 0.7 percent in 2005 was one of the worst on the list, but its June unemployment rate of 6.7 percent (the 2000 average was 4.2) was on the top half of the list.

"Like many cities on our list, the Canton-Massillon area has been victim to the decline of the so-called Rust Belt," the article said. "A once-booming iron and steel industry has been in terminal decline for years. But the decline of steel has not left the region without any jobs. Canton and nearby Akron are home to industrial parts manufacturer Timken, security firm Diebold, Goodyear Tires and First Energy."

Reach Repository Business Editor Pat Kelley at (330) 580-8323 or e-mail: pat.kelley@cantonrep.com

THE LIST

The 10 cities on Forbes' "Fastest-Dying Cities" list:

• Canton

Migration (since 2000) -7,807

Population change +212

June unemployment 6.7% (2000 average: 4.2%)

Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth 0.7%

• Youngstown

Migration (since 2000) -28,435

Population change -32,260

June unemployment 7.3% (2000 average: 5.8%)

Annual GDP growth 1.2%

• Dayton

Migration -33,499

Population change -12,616

June unemployment 6.9% (2000 average: 3.9%)

Annual GDP growth 1.2%

• Cleveland

Migration -115,411

Population change -51,539

June unemployment 7.7% (2000 average: 3.9%)

Annual GDP growth 1.7%

• Flint, Mich.

Migration -17,221

Population change -1,433

June unemployment 9.7% (2000 average: 6%)

Annual GDP growth 0.4%

• Scranton, Pa.

Migration +2,431

Population change -11,197

June unemployment 6.2% (2000 average: 4.9%)

Annual GDP growth 1.3%

• Springfield, Mass.

Migration -16,626

Population change +2,643

June unemployment 5.9 % (2000 average: 3.0%)

Annual GDP growth 1%

• Buffalo, N.Y.

Migration -51,302

Population change -41,926

June unemployment 5.7% (2000 average: 4.3%)

Annual GDP growth 1.9%

• Detroit

Migration -174,592

Population change +15,033

June unemployment 9.7% (2000 average: 3.7%)

Annual GDP growth 0.5%

• Charleston, W.Va.

Migration -5,776

Population change -5,682

June unemployment 4.8% (2000 average: 5.2%)

Annual GDP growth 1%

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