Federal Reserve Has Rosy Outlook for Cincinnati’s Over-Performing Economy

A spring 2015 update on the economic health of the Cincinnati region from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland gives reason for optimism when it comes to the area’s recovery.

The Cincinnati metropolitan area is recovering at a rate equal to that of the nation, and production, income, and GDP are all up in the area. LaVaughn Henry, vice president and senior regional officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Cincinnati Branch, cited the area’s diversified economy as one reason for robust growth.

More specifically, the Fed pointed to Cincinnati’s large employment percentages in the consumer marketing field as a reason for its success. As the nation continues to recover and consumer confidence and consumption rise, Cincinnati is poised to benefit at a greater rate than other metropolitan areas.

Further bolstering the region’s growth are the construction and manufacturing sectors, having grown 7% and 4% over the last year, respectively. Healthcare and education are also growing, while the area’s business and professional sectors are lagging behind national averages.

Overall Cincinnati’s performance seems to be mirroring that of the nation, with high growth in manufacturing and construction, stagnant growth in government, and large drops in the information sector.

The region’s employment rate now stands at 4.5%, nearly a point lower than the national average and the lowest level in 10 years. The average Cincinnatian is seeing the fruits of this economic growth, with wages growing faster than the rest of Ohio and other nearby metros. Henry says that wages are poised to reach an average of $840 a week – a level not seen since 2007.

The region, however, has not yet managed to reach pre-Recession employment levels. This is in line with the national trend, although behind local metropolitan areas.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland also cited recent announcements from companies planning major job expansions as reason for continued optimism that the area’s employment growth will continue. While the local housing market has seen sluggish growth, the Henry says that shrinking housing supply and increased construction will strengthen the sector.

Cincy Red Bike users can use Dayton’s new Link Bike Share when it launches in May

While Cincy Red Bike is expanding and celebrating higher than expected ridership in its first six months, Dayton is preparing to launch a 24-station bike share system of its own. Link Bike Share is expected to begin operations in May and will also be part of the national B-Cycle network – meaning that Cincy Red Bike members can also use their memberships when in Dayton. More from WDTN:

Mayor Nan Whaley was the first to buy a Link membership. The first 100 members will get $10 off of the $65 dollar membership. Otherwise, renting a bike for 24 hours will cost $5, but will need to be ‘checked-in’ every 30 minutes at any kiosk. Link will be the 31st bike share program system in the country when it launches in May.

Why did so few people vote in Tuesday’s election?

Election day was a great day for Republicans. It was was not, however, a good day for our democracy. President Obama notably commented on the fact that two-thirds of the nation chose not to participate in the election in his remarks the day after results came in. But perhaps most depressing is that Ohio set a record for the lowest turnout in history for a gubernatorial election. More from the Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio just set a modern record low for turnout in a gubernatorial election. And it wasn’t even close. Although provisional ballots and some absentees remain to be counted, the rate with all precincts reporting election-night totals to the secretary of state’s office is 39.99 percent.

The previous low since statewide voter registration data have been kept (1978) was 47.18 percent, when Republican Gov. Bob Taft won an easy re-election victory in 2002.

While Limited in Size, Individuals With Limited English Capabilities Perform Well in Regional Economy

In the United States, more than 45 million working-age adults – over 20% – speak a language other than English in their homes.

According to a report released by the Brookings Institute, approximately 19.2 million (almost 10%) of this sub-population are considered “limited English proficient” (LEP). More than 70% of these LEPs participate in the work force, and the Brookings Institute found that they make considerably less (anywhere from 17-135%) than their English-proficient counterparts. These individuals, researchers found, are also more likely to suffer from unemployment and poverty.

While most LEP individuals live in the nation’s large metropolitan areas, like Cincinnati, their numbers are rapidly growing in smaller urbanized regions, like Dayton and Lexington.

In the Cincinnati metropolitan region, the number of LEP adults exceeds 35,000 and has grown 55.1% since 2000. This places the region in the top 25 of the 89 largest metropolitan areas in the nation; however, LEP individuals only make up 2.5% of the metropolitan region’s total workforce. This places Cincinnati 88th out of the 89 largest regions in America.

There has been a growing interest in this topic recently, with some organizations going as far to organize workshops to help non-native English speakers with business start-up and management training.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that the most commonly spoken language by LEP individuals is Spanish. Across the nation, that percentage is 66.3%, but represents just 41.9% of the LEP population locally.

The Cincinnati region does, however, have a relatively high percentage of Asian and Pacific Island language LEP workers (35.2%), with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese following Spanish as the top languages spoken. French speakers come in next at 3.9%.

It should be emphasized that while Germans represent the region’s predominant historical migrant community, the German language did not rank amongst the top five languages spoken within Cincinnati’s LEP community. This, however, may be the result of Germans immigrating to the region several generations ago. It also speaks to the complexity of the issue of immigration and the need for a comprehensive study of the matter.

Following national trends, the Brookings Institute found that LEP workers in Cincinnati are most likely to work in industries like manufacturing, accommodation and food service. Cincinnati’s LEP workers, however, were found to be slightly more educated than the national average, with a smaller percentage of individuals with less than a high school education and a larger percentage of individuals with an education level of at least some college or a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Those positive numbers seem to translate into better economic performance for the region, with more than 76% of Cincinnati’s LEP workers active in the regional workforce – a rate that is slightly better than the national average.

With demographers predicting that almost all growth in the U.S. labor force will come from immigrants and their children over the next half-century, these statistics have a large impact on the overall well-being of the American economy.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Listen to our podcast with Alfonso Cornejo, President of the Cincinnati Hispanic Chamber, and Kristin Hoffman, an Immigration/Administration Lawyer with Hammond Law Group, to learn more about the region’s efforts and needs to become more welcoming to immigrants and foreign language speakers.

Transit Users Will Need 7 Hours to Commute to ODOT Public Transit Meeting

An event making the rounds on social media hosted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) provides an opportunity for citizens to tell Governor John Kasich’s (R) administration about public transportation improvements they’d like to see in their city. The public meeting to discuss statewide transit needs is hosted on Friday, October 31 from 10am to 12pm at the Warren County OhioMeansJobs Center in Lebanon.

While the gathering has good intention, it fails to meet the basic criteria of planning a public involvement meeting:

  1. Never host a public meeting on a holiday.
  2. Never host a public meeting on a Friday or weekend.
  3. The location of a public meeting should be accessible to all members of the community and able to attract a diverse group of citizens.

By car, Lebanon is roughly a one hour drive north of Cincinnati, and a 30-minute drive south from Dayton. It’s also the city where the regional ODOT office is located; understandably why the administration would opt to hold a public involvement meeting here. What went unconsidered are the needs of people that the public meeting is focused on: citizens reliant on public transportation.

The closest Metro bus stop to Lebanon is 8.3 miles away, near Kings Island in Mason. Let’s say we’re feeling ambitious and attempt to take the bus, then bicycle the remaining journey to Lebanon. It would take 48 minutes to cycle to the meeting in addition to the 1 hour, 11 minute ride on the bus. Cincinnati Metro, the region’s bus system, only offers select service to the northern suburbs. In order to arrive on time for the 10am meeting, a person dependent on transit would have to catch the 71x at 7:45am, arrive in Mason at 8:52am, then continue to the meeting on bicycle.

Getting back home is another story. The public involvement meeting adjourns at 12pm, but the bus route that services Mason is a job connection bus, meaning it only runs traditional hours when people are going to and from work. After another 48 minutes of cycling back to the bus stop, the inbound 71x picks up shortly after 3pm and returns to Cincinnati at 4:40pm.

In summary, if a citizen dependent on bus transportation wishes to give ODOT their input, they would spend 7 hours commuting to the two hour meeting, and need to able-bodied to ride a bicycle for eight miles. What about senior citizens and people with disabilities? Who can afford to take an entire day off work to attend a meeting? As a transit rider who has a car, driving an hour each way to attend the meeting –in the middle of the work day– for me, is inconvenient and unfeasible.

The poor choice of trying to combine Cincinnati and Dayton into one meeting was an unfortunate oversight in event planning. Instead, meetings should be hosted in the downtown of each city, just like they have been in Columbus and Cleveland which are also participating in the ODOT series.

Since 2011, Governor Kasich has cut $4 million from the state’s public transit budget, leaving Ohio with one of the lowest funded transit systems in the country. If there’s a genuine interest in hearing how those cuts affect the people that rely on public transportation the most, the administration needs to schedule a second meeting in Cincinnati near Government Square where those people can actually get to.

Of course, this isn’t the first time area transit users have been ignored when it comes to public meeting locations. Earlier this year, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) upheld a decision to relocate Hamilton County’s Board of Elections office to a location that would take up to four hours to access by transit.