What are we doing today for tomorrow?

Published 12:09 am Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our community has many, wonderful things located within its borders, but in the last few years much focus has been made on what is not here any more — heavy industry.

With a few exceptions, many of the large, industrial plants that dominated our area’s economy and employed generations of residents throughout the 20th century, ended production in the last decade.

Their former industrial homes stand as hulking reminders of bygone days.

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The former locations of Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company and Johns Manville roofing plant sit idle. The former International Paper mill is mostly idle, awaiting investment funds from its new owner, Rentech.

Because our community was slow to react to the rapidly changing, globalization that led to the loss of our industrial base, we’ve seen a sharp decline in population.

That population decline has led to less occupied housing, less money flowing through our economy and local governments that struggle to maintain the same infrastructure and services with a seemingly ever-decreasing pot of money.

But the decline is not, as some naysayers would argue, a permanent inevitability.

The population decline can be slowed and eventually turned around.

The key is growing jobs and that begins with helping business — existing and new — understand that they can make money in our community.

The latest Census data shows some staggering losses, but they should come as no surprise. The question we need to be asking ourselves is: What are we doing today to help slow the losses tomorrow?