Additional comments

Volume 1, Issue 2

General comments

Topping the list of greatest concerns for communities a year from now was the availability of local employment opportunities (36%) according to those responding to our survey. Following employment was budgetary cuts and financing issues at the federal level (34%) and vacant and abandoned property (31%). Two overarching themes emerged from respondents’ comments on employment: quality jobs and a quality workforce. The director of banking trade association wrote, “The availability of quality jobs defined as adequate compensation short term, real opportunity long term. This underlies all of Ohio’s social welfare questions.”  A university professor stated, “Jobs are increasing, but many don’t have the skills for them.”  Another noted that “some highly skilled position will remain vacant for extended periods because the quality workforce doesn’t exist.” 

Comments on the federal budgets cuts focused mainly on their impacts on local communities and the current political environment. Cuts to programs such as CDBG and HOME were mentioned by number of respondents. A director of a nonprofit in Pennsylvania wrote “Federal budget cuts have decreased the programs and services that decrease blight, increase affordable housing opportunities, and increase the number of children successfully obtaining an education.”  The budgets cuts, this respondent continued, “Adversely affect the ability of non-profits to provide these services resulting in economic instability now and in future generations.”  Others expressed concern that the cuts in federal programs hurt those least able to handle the cutbacks. “For families below the poverty line, a huge segment of the population in Appalachia, access to federal programs is critical,” noted a CEO of a housing organization in Kentucky. A number mentioned concern with the federal policies in place to deal with our economic recovery. A program director in Ohio wrote “The federal government needs to do more to stimulate the economy to get people back to work. Concern about budget deficits is misguided in our current economic environment.”  Both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government were attributed blame for the political gridlock in Washington, a planning director in an Ohio county, “Federal budget process needs to stop being down to the wire. Make the cuts that are needed and we will learn to live with them—the uncertainty is unproductive.”  

Vacant and abandoned properties rounded out the top three in terms of issues of concern a year from now. Responses focused mainly on concerns about more vacant properties being added to an already large inventory of distressed properties and their impact on communities. A nonprofit executive director in Kentucky commented that “More foreclosed homes keep coming on the market and vacancies in urban areas continues to increase, driving down property values and detracting from neighborhoods.” Resources to deal with the issue are also of concern. “There are more vacant properties every day and nothing suggests there are adequate resources to address it,” wrote a respondent from Ohio. A Pennsylvania banker stated, “funds are needed to rehabilitate entire blocks in [some] neighborhoods and not much is available. Eventually, the vacant housing stock will become an even more serious problem.”

WHAT ELSE IS BUBBLING TO THE SURFACE

“Having been in banking for 50-plus years, today is the first time in my career there is hope for economic growth resulting from oil and gas leasing and exploration in East Central Ohio.” –Ohio Bank CEO

“Marcellus Shale gas is providing new job opportunities that could be enjoyed by the local workforce. This and other job creation tactics must address stable, well-paying, place-based employment in order to build stronger communities and families.” – Program officer from a Pennsylvania foundation

“Now that we need people to work in the shale gas and related fields we need qualified people. The jobs that are available require skills our unemployed people don’t have. Only one out of ten applicants for unskilled labor jobs can pass a drug screen.” –City planner from a local government in Ohio

“If fracking takes hold in southern-central Ohio, those communities will face/are facing a need for workforce housing, schools, roads and infrastructure the communities do not currently have, or have the capacity to properly plan for and build.” – Bank Senior Vice President in Ohio
 
“I think the emergence of gas and oil drilling in record numbers is going to be one of the largest areas of concern in the Pennsylvania and Ohio regions. While we all want the income and prosperity that can be gained, I am truly concerned about what the drilling can do to the residential value of the housing stock in these areas. As a primarily residential lender, I think this could become a major concern moving forward. It is my understanding that our states do not currently have the laws that will protect our citizens from the hazards of drilling. More experienced states (Texas, Colorado, etc) have laws in place to protect homeowners from these concerns.” – Bank Vice President in Pennsylvania

“The emergence of natural gas drilling in the Fourth District and the implications of community and economic development is at a critical stage. Pennsylvania's recent passage of Act 13 (Oil and Gas Law) will have implications on community land use decisions, and investment patterns as a result of local impact fee money and changes to zoning responsibilities.” – Regional director of a Pennsylvania nonprofit

“Columbiana County is in the center of Ohio's Utica Shale gas boom. The environmental consequences are not fully known and many land owners see leasing their land as the windfall of a life time with no thought given to potential pollution of aquifers, streams, etc. along with the adverse impact on county and township roads.” – Executive director of an Ohio nonprofit

“Depending upon drilling activity, affordable housing could become a scarce resource for existing and potential residents in towns that have not needed significant housing stock in the past. Developers and advocates will need to balance need for housing, with possibility that the economic activity may not be long-term and therefore need/market for new affordable housing is only short-term.” – Housing preservation coordinator for a nonprofit in Ohio