The purpose of this project is to help frame the debate for Ohio’s next governor by laying out the challenges facing Ohio’s economy and seeking candidates’ proposals for addressing them.

Ohio has witnessed a steady decline in its economic well-being, compared to the nation as a whole, for more than 60 years.
  • In 1953 Ohio’s per capita personal income was 9 percent above the national average. It is now 9 percent below.
  • Much of this decline can be traced to the loss of 700,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs since the 1969 peak.
  • Many factors are at play, including increased foreign and domestic competition, but the biggest contributor to the loss of manufacturing jobs has been automation.
  • Ohio factories today are producing twice what they did 50 years ago with half as many workers.

The nature of Ohio’s job market has changed and so have the skills of Ohio workers and the skill needs of Ohio employers.
  • Ohio’s workforce is better educated and more diverse than 50, or even 15, years ago.
  • Serious gaps exist between the skills employers want and the skills Ohio workers have.
  • Estimates of the size and nature of these gaps vary, making it difficult to develop and implement an appropriate plan for addressing Ohio’s current and future skill needs.
  • Adding more jobs will not, in and of itself, improve the prospects for Ohio and its workers if the state’s employment composition continues to shift toward lower paying jobs.

Governors from both parties have worked to improve Ohio’s economic performance, but their interventions have not yet been able to reverse the state’s relative decline.
  • Ohio’s challenges are similar to those of other Midwest industrial states.
  • There is no silver bullet, but there are a variety of state-level policy options that could improve the lives of Ohioans,
  • Ohio’s candidates for governor should be prepared to answer questions about what they propose in these four areas:
    1. Creating more high-paying jobs.
    2. Improving the match between the skills worker have and those employers need.
    3. Exerting influence on national and international policies that affect Ohio.
    4. Addressing the needs of “forgotten Ohio,” those people and places who have lost out in the modern economy.

The findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this report are the product of research conducted by the author(s) and do not represent the views of either the John Glenn College of Public Affairs or The Ohio State University.

Paper 1 traces the performance of Ohio’s economy over the past half-century — a time when Ohio’s economy declined compared to the nation overall, in large part due to the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs. We look at the role foreign and domestic competition and automation have played in this decline, as well as the impact of manufacturing job loss on local economies.

Paper 2 focuses on changes in the nature of Ohio’s workforce over this period and workforce challenges the state faces in the future. We pay particular attention to the projected skill demands of Ohio employers and how they match up with the skills Ohio workers possess.

Paper 3 begins with the efforts of Ohio governors over the past 50 years to accelerate growth of the state’s economy. It discusses the politics of jobs as an issue and compares Ohio’s performance, relative to other states, in generating income for its citizens. The paper concludes with a discussion of policy questions we believe the next governor should be prepared to address.

Twelve Questions for Ohio’s Next Governor. These questions are also appropriate for legislative candidates.

Bill Shkurti retired in 2010 after 20 years as OSU’s Vice President for Business and Finance. He also served as Director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management and chief of staff to the chair if the Ohio Senate Finance Committee. Bill has also served on a number of non-profit boards, including the James Cancer Hospital, Shawnee State University, Ohio Student Loan Commission, Transportation Research Center and the Upper Arlington Library. He is an Ohio State University graduate with a degree with Distinction in Economics in 1968 and a Masters Degree in Public Administration in 1974. He received the John Glenn College of Public Affairs Outstanding Public Service Award in 2005. His teaching and research interests include public budgeting, financial management and economic development. He has written journal articles on revenue forecasting, the economic impact of Honda in Ohio and role of health care in Ohio’s economy. He has also published two statistical profiles of the State of Ohio (Benchmark Ohio 1989 and 1991), a book on the challenges of the drawdown from Vietnam War, Soldiering on in a Dying War, published by the University Press of Kansas in 2011, and a book on Ohio State in the 1960’s, Ohio State in the Sixties: The Unraveling of the Old Order, published by OSU Press in 2016.

Contact information:
Fran Stewart is the author of The STEM Dilemma: Skills That Matter to Regions, which was published by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in 2017. She is a Senior Research Fellow at Ohio State University’s Ohio Manufacturing Institute and works in the Cleveland area as an independent researcher and writer. Stewart’s research focuses primarily on public policies related to workforce development and regional economic development policy. Her body of work comprises projects for state government agencies, universities, non-profit economic development intermediaries, and local think tanks and advocacy groups. A former newspaper journalist, Stewart holds a PhD from the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Contact information:

The Columbus Metropolitan hosted a talk featuring Bill Shkurti and Fran Stewart, and Thomas Suddes, columnist and assistant professor at Ohio University, to discuss these papers - and the state's future - in more detail.
Listen to Bill Shkurti discuss the research in Toward a New Ohio on the Town Hall Ohio radio program.
Listen to Bill Shkurti and Fran Stewart discuss the research in Toward a New Ohio on the Town Hall Ohio radio program.

Ohio Economy Part 1

Ohio Economy Part 2

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