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Ohio needs to find new ways to grow its economy

While many analyses of our national economy have been relatively positive, folks here in the Mid-Ohio Valley still find themselves wondering when all that prosperity is going to make its way to them. Researchers at the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University in Indiana did not have much encouragement to offer in a recent report.

Trade anxiety and the possibility of more downturns in the energy and manufacturing industries have led to forecasts the Ohio Valley regional economy will slow even further in 2020.

“You will see layoffs certainly, lower hours, less generous bonuses both this year and next year, less demand for power, which is going to be important particularly in Kentucky and West Virginia, as manufacturing firms both use less metallurgical coal and less coal for electrical power,” said the center’s director, Michael Hicks, speaking to NPR station WKMS.

According to Hicks, trade tensions would have a greater effect on the Ohio Valley than on the nation as a whole, particularly if there is a decline in the demand for U.S. goods.

“(That) is enough to push Kentucky and West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois into a localized recession,” he said. “It’s not enough for a national recession, but it’s enough to give us the feel and taste of what a recession would be like.”

Though it may seem difficult to come up with the resources to diversify our region’s economy, as we seem to always be getting kicked while we are down, Ball State’s analysis should serve as even more encouragement to find new ways to thrive, new industries, new kinds of employers. The industries that supported us for generations leave us more vulnerable to economic woes than most of the rest of the nation.

They are still important, but they cannot continue to stand alone if we are to see all of the Ohio Valley at its best once more.

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