Springfield to retain metropolitan designation

Downtown Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Downtown Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The federal government has scrapped a proposal that would have removed 144 cities from the designation of metropolitan statistical areas, which if enacted would have impacted Springfield.

The proposed change would have raised the population criteria for core cities in metro areas from 50,000 residents to 100,000. That would have reclassified the Springfield area from metropolitan area to micropolitan.

Springfield had an estimated population of 59,132 as of 2019, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. The metropolitan area as a whole has an urban population of 85,256, according to estimates used by the Associated Press.

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The change could have affected federal funding and economic development opportunities. Some housing, transportation and Medicare reimbursement programs are directed specifically to metropolitan statistical areas.

Some critics of the proposed change, including Republican Senator Rob Portman, stated that it could potentially jeopardize certain federal resources from reaching communities that would no longer qualify as a metropolitan area.

“Communities in Ohio and across the United States count on this designation for federal funding that goes towards important programs,” said a statement from Portman’s office.

“The proposal would have threatened access to vital federal resources for nearly 150 communities across the country, including five in Ohio,” the statement added.

If the federal government decided to change those classifications it would not have taken place until 2023. Other cities in Ohio that would have been impacted included Lima, Mansfield, Weirton-Steubenville and Wheeling.

In Springfield, local officials worried that the change could have made the area less eligible for certain types of state and federal funding.

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said in March that it was unknown what exactly the impacts would be if the greater Springfield area lost its metropolitan status.

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Springfield’s current status does make it eligible to certain grants administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as from other state and federal agencies.

However, it is unknown if Springfield would have lost that eligibility by becoming a micropolitan area or if it would have hurt its chances in acquiring those types of funding.

Some local economic development leaders told the News-Sun in March that the change would not have had much of an impact on their work.

That type of funding as well as economic development opportunities are not usually tied to the population size of a particular metropolitan area, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

Instead, certain economic opportunities depend on the type of infrastructure and the amount of building space available. Other factors include proximity to other population centers.

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