What they are saying: Local leaders and experts weigh in on future Dayton

Local leaders and experts from the business, health care, government and education sectors were asked about what they expect and hope the multi-county Dayton region will be like in 20-25 years, and what should be done to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Overall they had high hopes for the future and said the region’s strengths make it well prepared to tackle the the issues it will face.

Here’s what some of those interviewed had to say, broken down by topic:

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition

“Our goal is to create an environment that makes it easy for the Air Force, Space Force and their industry partners to grow. Workforce is key, not just having a strong talent pipeline, but maintaining a quality of life that attracts and retains in-demand talent.”

Stephanie Keinath, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

“There are so many exciting partnerships underway that connect our small businesses, our colleges and universities, our health care institutions and other community partners to the cutting edge work that happens on base. As we anticipate greater investments by the U.S. Air Force in digital transformation and research and development in the coming years, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Dayton are well positioned to continue to grow.”

Economic diversity



Ret. U.S. Air Force Col. Cassie Barlow, president of Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education

“As a region, we will need to be good moving forward at selling our diversity of employers. This diversification is a strength for our region since a potential employee can move to Dayton to take a position in one company and have the opportunity throughout a career to work for many different companies. Our employers will need to ensure that they have competitive midwestern salaries and sell the fact that our cost of living and quality of life is much better than the high salary locations across the country.”

Eric F. Spina, president of the University of Dayton

“Jobs will continue to come to Wright-Patt inside the fence. So I think it’s a job of a lot of people to think about how those inside-the-fence jobs can translate to outside-the-fence jobs. This is both around defense, but also dual use technologies. How can those technologies inside the fence be commercialized in a way that they’re driving non-defense business as well?”


Steven Johnson, president of Sinclair Community College

“Talent and workforce is going to continue to be a thing because the world is changing so fast, and jobs are changing so fast. Perhaps it will slow down in 20 years, I don’t know. But it’s not going to stop....The skilling and reskilling of people throughout their entire lives, their work careers, is going to continue.”

Debbie Lieberman, Montgomery County commissioner

“We will continue to see the workforce evolve. Baby boomers and Gen-X will continue to retire but many will be looking for that second or third career. We have to be willing to look at a more mature populace as our incoming workforce who prefer to balance a shorter work week while being ‘retired.’ We also have to realize and accept that most workers will not be ‘lifers’ at their employment, that workers will not remain at a single employer for an extended period of time, and be able to adjust our hiring practices to meet the needs of the employer.”


Vince Lewis, associate vice president of entrepreneurial initiatives at the University of Dayton

“(Dayton) is also a great environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses. There is a highly knit entrepreneurial ecosystem, and significant resources for business owners from higher education partners and economic development organizations, including for Black, woman and other entrepreneurs who have historically been underrepresented and underserved, through initiatives that include the Greater West Dayton Incubator and the Hub Powered by PNC. This focus on entrepreneurs, small businesses and innovation is what will help drive Dayton into the future.”


Stacy Wall Schweikhart, CEO at Learn to Earn Dayton

“We must continue to work upstream to support students to ensure they enter kindergarten ready to learn, become proficient readers by third-grade, explore career opportunities beginning in middle school so that they can align with career pathway opportunities in high school, and go on to graduate high school and complete postsecondary options that lead to a stable career that provides a living-wage.”

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

Sue Edwards, president of Wright State University

“I think we’re in a great place (with technology). I think what we’ve got to be concerned about is ensuring that we stay there. That’s really where education comes in. How do we install the excitement to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)? That’s the million dollar question.”

Health care



Deborah Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children’s Hospital

“Health care is certainly a major employer, a major workforce driver, an economic driver in the region. So we want to make sure these institutions remain strong. There are just a lot of trends happening in health care and how it all looks 25 years from now I don’t know that any of us can predict. But I think it will look different. I’m not sure it will look as hospital-centric as it looks today. But I think there’s a lot of opportunity in health care overall to raise up the health of our people, which will enable many more to work longer, which I think we’re going to need.”


Brian Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission

“I’d say trails and transit, roads and bridges are still going to be our focus. I think the drone conversation is always good. They have to come down to the ground sometime, so having that (drone) infrastructure is good.”

Climate change

Bob Brecha, director of the University of Dayton sustainability program.

“In the U.S. midwest, we are actually in a somewhat more fortunate situation compared to many other parts of the country. There are a few main trends in climate change that are affecting us already and that will continue to become more noticeable. The first is an increase in average temperatures, perhaps most noticeably with shorter and mostly less severe winters, but also with warmer nights in the summer....At the same time, probably one of the most severe negative impacts for our region can come from more of those intense precipitation events that can cause flooding. This relative lack of impacts from climate change, compared to places with hurricanes, sea-level rise, extreme heat waves, etc., could make Dayton and the surrounding (area) an attractive option for ‘climate refugees’ from other parts of the country.”

Water quality

Ramanitharan Kandiah, chair of water resources management department and professor of environmental engineering at Central State University

“In the coming decades, climate change can impact the water resources and how we use and protect them in the Miami Valley. However, thanks to the geology, we in the Miami Valley have plenty of water in the aquifer for the near future....Reduced water use, prevention of water source contamination, remediation and mitigation of the already contaminated source, water workforce development and continuous water education and training, educating and engaging the community, the financial stability for the water projects, and the timely water policy and regulations are few areas we need to focus in Dayton and its vicinity in the next 25 years.”


Alcinda Folck, interim associate extension director and state program leader for agriculture and natural resources at Central State University

“Innovation and technology have been essential in agriculture to create a food system that is the leading employer of people in Ohio. However, we have food deserts in communities that lack access to fresh food to create nutritional, healthy meals for individuals and families. The future of agriculture will be utilizing innovation and technology to create local food systems that promote sustainable farms in local areas to increase access for healthy foods. Creating these micro-systems, that provide sustainability for communities, will be key in the advancement of agriculture.”

Follow @LynnHulseyDDN on Twitter and Facebook

About the Author