Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Rust Belt Akron

As Ohio cities go, Akron is doing relatively well:

According to city figures, downtown employment has doubled since the early 1990s to 31,000 people, many of whom are employed at nonprofit hospitals and the University of Akron.

The U.S. Census Bureau counted 492 firms with 12,871 private-sector employees in downtown's main ZIP code as of 2005, according to a report released last year. The tally covers a smaller area than that included in the count by downtown boosters, which helps explain the wide discrepancy in the downtown employment figures.

Still, the Census report shows that Akron was the only major Ohio city whose main downtown work force grew in the first half of the decade, with employment rising 2 percent. Adding two other ZIP Codes that straddle the downtown improvement district - established by merchants under Ohio law - boosts total employment there to 25,954, Census reports show.

That's the glass is half full version. To say that downtown Akron is thriving is a stretch, but I don't want to poo-poo the rosy numbers in a state that doesn't have much economic news to celebrate. There is something to be said for treading water in a climate of sinking cities.

However, the article doesn't make clear what kind of promise the future holds. Where or on what is Akron pinning its hopes? There appears to be a strong resilience, but little in the way of robust growth.

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