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Economic forum: Water, universities among Dayton’s key strengths

The Dayton region can improve its economic vibrancy by improving cooperation across jurisdictions and capitalizing on its strengths, such as its large supply of clean groundwater and multiple universities and colleges, according to people who attended a Sunday town hall on the economy held at the main Dayton Metro Library.

The region will benefit if people focused more “that real sense of community instead of always thinking about the divisions,” said Diane Ewing, system vice president-chief communications officer for Premier Health and a member of the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board.

“I would love to see a greater emphasis on building understanding and trust,” said Susan Johnston of Kettering.

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The two women were among nearly two dozen people who attended the Your Voice Ohio-sponsored event, one of several occurring across the state.

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There is a similar event planned for Monday in Springfield.

The group is looking at ways to boost the economic vibrancy in Ohio. In Sunday’s session participants settled on three action areas: quality education, a locally grown economy and community/inclusion, said Doug Oplinger, project manager for the group.

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As part of its initiative, The Path Forward, the Dayton Daily News is also looking at how to make the region’s economic recovery more inclusive and how to overcome the skills gap that threatens vibrancy if the workforce is unprepared for jobs that are available now and in the future.

“We need good jobs for all who want them,” said Logan Martinez, a community activist from Miamisburg.

While unemployment is low, wages have stagnated and inflation-adjusted median household income declined by 7 percent in Montgomery County to $47,755 between 2008 and 2017, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Richard Stock, director of the University of Dayton Business Research Group.

In the broader Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area — which includes Montgomery, Greene and Miami counties — the decline was 4 percent, to $52,745.

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Stock’s analysis of wages showed that average weekly earnings in the Dayton metro area declined by $174 between 2007 and 2017 in inflation-adjusted U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Businesses are so hard pressed to show profits, they don’t think about the long-term effect of pushing down wages and what that does to a community,” said Susan Johnston of Kettering. “There are jobs, but they are just not jobs you can raise a family on.”

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The region could do more to capitalize on Dayton’s rich history of innovation and its growing ethnic and cultural communities,” said Rebecca Jarvi of Beavercreek.

“(There) is a lot of innovation from immigrants,” said Nancy Glock-Grueneich of Fairborn.

Others spoke of the need to improve the schools, do more to battle racism, and help more people afford post-secondary education.

“It falls on the public community to accept the burden of training people,” Johnston said, adding that places which boost the skills of their workforce can win new economic development.

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Community meetings

Two-hour conversations on how to fix Ohio’s ailing communities will occur across the state. To register, go to the Your Voice Ohio web site.

Springfield: Monday, Sept. 24, 6-8 p.m., Clark State Community College, Leffel Lane Campus, LRC 207/209, 570 E. Leffel Lane, Springfield.

Columbus: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6-8 p.m. , Boathouse Restaurant, Olentangy Room, 679 W. Spring Street, Columbus.

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey

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