Regaining Ohio’s leadership in U.S. economy is topic for experts


While Ohio’s economic history is unique, thanks in large part to the canal system, the state’s experience of a once booming population to that of stagnant economic growth is not unique. Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania all face similar challenges. In each of these states, especially in cities, which have been hardest hit by rustbelt declines, important long-term conversations surrounding economic development, education and tax policies are in full swing.

To begin a dialogue on how Ohio can regain its foothold in a rapidly changing economic environment, the Department of Economics in UA’s College of Business will be hosting the Ohio Economic Forum 2021 to take place virtually on Friday, April 30, 2021, from 8:30-10:30 a.m. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Experts to weigh in

Dr. Mark Partridge, C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy and professor in the Department of Agriculture, Environmental and Development Economics at The Ohio State University, will deliver the keynote speech. This will be followed by a panel discussion of four accomplished professionals: Dr. Mark Rembert, head of Rural Innovation Network, Center on Rural Innovation, Vermont; Dr. Roland Anglin, dean and professor, Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University; Amanda Woodrum, senior researcher, Policy Matters Ohio, Cleveland; and Guhan Venkatu, group vice president, Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Andrew Thomas, associate professor in the Department of Marketing at UA.

Dr. Partridge and this panel of experts will address some of the issues raised in the recent report, “Falling Behind: How Ohio Continues to Lose its Place in the U.S. Economy,” by Dr. Amanda Weinstein, associate professor in the Department of Economics at UA, and her co-authors Dr. Michael Hicks and Dr. Emily Wornell at the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University:

  • What policies does Ohio need to increase the skills of its workforce?
  • What policies address issues that are unique to Ohio's rural areas?
  • What policies do Ohio cities need in order to counter the dispersion from cities that occurred during the pandemic?
  • What policies can support and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ohio?

Ohio’s economic history

Ohio’s economic history is unique. In 1802, after Ohio became a state, it strategically invested in its infrastructure by building the Miami Canal in 1827 and the Ohio-Erie Canal in 1827. This led to a dramatic decrease in freight costs and transit times that allowed Ohio to efficiently connect to markets that were previously inaccessible. Ohio thus got a head start toward industrialization, offering the highest average wages at $1.53 per labor-day in the nation in 1854, and quickly became the third most populous state in the nation from about 1840 to 1880 and the fourth most populous state from 1890 to 1940. Ohio has since fallen to its current seventh most populous state ranking and is predicted to fall further to the ninth most populous state by 2040.

Several structural changes in the US economy have led Ohio to fall behind other states over time. For example:

  • Increased labor productivity in the South and Southwest led to the migration of manufacturing from the Midwest to the South after 1960.
  • Globalization led to low-skill manufactured goods being produced cheaper offshore over the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Manufacturing’s share of nonfarm employment in the US decreased from 38% in 1943 to less than 9% in 2019.

Consequently, average growth during 2015-2020 shows that Ohio ranks 37th in employment growth, 30th in Gross State Product (GSP) growth, 31st in population growth and 30th in average annual pay. Ohio, once a leader in public education, arguably the single most important predictor of economic success, has also fallen behind in increasing the skills of its workforce. In 2018, Ohio ranked 30th in the nation in educational attainment (i.e., the share of the population with a college degree).

Don’t miss this important dialogue about strengthening Ohio’s economic status.

Media contact: Lisa Craig, 330-972-7429 or