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Community Issues and Insights

Inaugural Community Survey Elicits Respondents’ Top Concerns in the District

This inaugural report captures the top concerns of the Community Survey’s respondents in the Fourth Federal Reserve District. The survey will be conducted twice annually and the results will be used to enhance our understanding of the issues, both current and upcoming, that are facing our District.

This inaugural report captures the top concerns of the Community Survey's respondents in the Fourth Federal Reserve District. The survey will be conducted twice annually and the results will be used to enhance our understanding of the issues, both current and upcoming, that are facing our District.
In the third quarter of 2011, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland surveyed key community stakeholders across the Fourth District.1 on current and emerging issues confronting the communities they serve. This report Issues & Insights, captures what we learned from the 144 stakeholder respondents who ranked current and emerging issues in order of severity and explained why and how these issues do or will impact their communities. Included are a summary of the top three issues facing respondents, comments and insights on other pressing issues, and respondents’ views of those issues most likely to be their biggest challenges a year from now. Outside of this summary report, we will be investigating responses to a question about new products, programs, or partnerships stakeholders have developed to address community needs; these newer initiatives may result in replicable or scalable solutions, which is useful for us to be aware of, track, and share with constituents. Stakeholders' insights enhance both the Federal Reserve’s and our readers’ understanding of the ways that current housing and economic trends affect communities. Through tools like this report, our policy summit, and our ongoing outreach, the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development team aims to raise awareness about emerging issues and specific programs that address community needs. We will conduct a community survey twice a year and share the resulting summary report for each round of results.

Current Issues

What did respondents rank as their top current concerns about the communities they serve?

1 - Availability of local employment opportunities

Given the current economic conditions, it is not surprising that more than half (51 percent) of the respondents ranked “availability of local employment opportunities” as one of their top three concerns. Just over a quarter (26 percent) named it their number one concern. In the Fourth District state of Kentucky, for example, the unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average since the last recession (see Figure 1). Comments about employment opportunities revolved around three themes: the skill set of job seekers, the types of jobs available, and the negative consequences of unemployment and job loss.

Several respondents pointed to the mismatch between the skills of job seekers and the jobs available. They noted two discrete disconnects: the lack of skilled labor and the lack of high–skilled jobs. One economic development professional stated that “skill gaps are emerging between the employers’ needs and what the workforce can supply.” A respondent from a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) wrote that the high unemployment in the region was due to two factors, “deplorable graduation rates and educational attainment rates… so the workforce is not ready for hire.” A respondent from a financial association stated that “for Ohio to be competitive economically, it must have a well–educated workforce—not just K–12, but technical and higher education as well.”

A number commented on the lack of jobs that pay living wages. “We are lacking in jobs that provide wages that will support families,” wrote a respondent from a local government. “The part–time and seasonal employment available does not have benefits that are needed.” Several noted that the loss of college graduates and skilled workers from our region is the result of limited opportunities for higher–skilled, higher–paying jobs. Without jobs, a number of respondents reported, foreclosures will continue to increase, tax revenues will continue to decline, and communities will continue to struggle to meet their needs.

“Skill gaps are emerging between the employers’ needs and what the workforce can supply.” —Economic development professional 

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Lisa A. 2011. “Inaugural Community Survey Elicits Respondents’ Top Concerns in the District” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Community Issues and Insights Winter 2012.