New FFEF Research Finds Growth is Not a One-Size Fits All Solution for Mid-Sized Metros

by | May 3, 2013

CLEVELAND–May 3, 2013–A new analysis of 115 mid-sized metropolitan areas between 1990 and 2011 suggests that local and regional stakeholders would benefit from a reassessment of what it means to grow and to thrive in a post-recession economy, according to an economic research report released today by the Fund for Our Economic Future.


“One of the most critical findings of the What Matters to Metros™ analysis is that metropolitan areas that have experienced strong job growth had some of the highest income disparity, crime and poverty,” said Brad Whitehead, president, Fund for Our Economic Future. “The data tells us that it is not enough to have economic strategies focused solely on job creation. Northeast Ohio and other U.S. metros must adopt strategies that create pathways to better-paying, higher quality jobs.”


What Matters to Metros™: Foundational Indicators for Economic Competitiveness can help community leaders identify factors that are associated with economic growth in mid-sized U.S. metropolitan areas in a post-recession economy. This work builds upon six previous studies (called the Dashboard of Economic Indicators) and assesses the relationship of 55 variables to economic growth across four measures: per capita income, gross metropolitan product (GMP), productivity and employment, between 1990 and 2011.


Key observations from the 2013 edition of What Matters to Metros™, titled “Building on Growth and Creating Opportunity,” identified specific growth patterns over the past two decades and suggest cyclical and structural changes to the nation’s metros: • Together, higher education and innovation remain critical ingredients for prosperous, productive communities that generate higher incomes, but are not associated with overall job growth over the period. • Many metros that experienced high levels of employment growth did not necessarily see these jobs translate into higher incomes; in fact, inequality, poverty and crime tended to be more prevalent in those metro areas that saw the most job gains. • Entrepreneurship and local business development, particularly in metro areas with more diverse and/or integrated populations, is associated with every measure of growth: jobs, income, productivity and GMP.


“The Fund believes the What Matters to Metros™ research can be a catalyst for civic leaders and interested citizens to come together around a data-informed platform to discuss what is and is not working in their communities,” said Emily Garr, report author and manager of research, grants and evaluation at the Fund for Our Economic Future. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in Northeast Ohio to align and examine growth strategies in a post-recession economy. We hope to share the data with national stakeholders so that other communities can do the same.”


What Matters™ to Northeast OhioThe What Matters to Metros™ report has specific implications for the four largest metropolitan areas in Northeast Ohio: Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown. Combined, these metros represent approximately 4 million people and $166 billion in gross product. Perhaps more importantly, they are part of an interconnected system of economic development organizations, philanthropy, governments, non-profits and businesses with a shared interest in seeing the region prosper and remain competitive in a global market. The Fund, a philanthropic collaboration, works to strengthen the region’s economy for the people of Northeast Ohio.


Key observations from Northeast Ohio include: • Counter to historical trends, Northeast Ohio outperformed the national average on three key metrics between 2010 and 2011: gross product, productivity, and per capita income. These indicators bode well for future hiring, and suggest that the region may be on track to recover the significant job losses of not one but two previous recessions. • Northeast Ohio’s unemployment rate is below the national rate and a higher share of the region’s working age population is connected to the labor force (unemployed and employed) relative to its peers.• Given the region’s static and aging population, civic leadership must set realistic goals about what degree of employment growth Northeast Ohio can be achieved and over what time period.


More detailed observations can be found at


Community forums are planned in each of Northeast Ohio’s four metros in June 2013. Each community forum will focus on the local data and what the data may mean to each area. Dates and locations for the community forums will be posted online and announced by the Fund for Our Economic Future.


To learn more about the upcoming events or view Northeast Ohio specific data, visit:


Economic Research Guides Northeast Ohio Economic research (link plays an important and essential role in guiding the work of the Fund and helps us identify what matters and other key priorities in our work to strengthen the region’s economy for the people of Northeast Ohio. The Fund uses the research to guide regional initiatives and inform the development and implementation of regional economic competitiveness initiatives.


“What Matters to Metros™ is the latest in an evolving body of research on the Northeast Ohio economy. This latest work not only adds to our understanding of – as the report title states – what most matters to improving the region’s economic performance, but also guides millions of dollars invested here to grow the region’s economy,” said Robert Jaquay, associate director of The George Gund Foundation.


Since 2004, philanthropic organizations and institutions have deployed more than $92 million through the Fund, a collaboration of organized philanthropy rooted in the belief that philanthropy can and should play a vital role in leading and sustaining efforts to build a vibrant, globally competitive Northeast Ohio. Members of the Fund collectively determine how it will invest its resources. The Fund has raised $9.5 million to date in Phase 4 (2013-2015) of its work to create an opportunity-rich economy for the people of Northeast Ohio.