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Public sector tops Clark’s jobs list

Honda reclaims spot in Top 10.Wright-Patt drives public, private jobs in Clark County.

Public-sector jobs make up half of the list of Clark County’s largest employers, despite past and pending cuts because of state and federal budget problems.

Five of Clark County’s Top 10 largest employers are in the public sector — military, schools and local government. The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce compiles the list every year.

“It helps us get a better understanding of where our core clusters of industries are and helps the community have a better understanding of the makeup of our community,” said Horton Hobbs, chamber vice president of economic development. “We use this when we’re actively marketing our community.”

This year’s list also shows some growth in manufacturing, with Honda cracking the Top 10 for the first time since, 2009. No manufacturers appeared on the list in 2010 or 2011.

But the employers most affected by government crisis are the ones with the most employees.

“This has been a shift occurring in our economy over the last three or four decades, so this is the latest step in the process,” Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said.

“We spend a lot of time and effort trying to increase private employment,” Copeland said. “I think the private sector has to be strong for the community to be strong.”

Hobbs said, “When you’ve had an economic downturn, there tends to be, if you look over time, an increase of the public sector and a slower rebound of the private sector.”

Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, said that seeing more public jobs is more of a general shift than a sign of economic decline. Greater Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on creating policy for economic development and urban planning.

“Cities like Springfield which are representative of many parts of Ohio and the Midwest will have to build on its assets and economic strengths, so if it’s the public sector at the moment, that’s what’s working,” Brachman said.

Hobbs used Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which employs more than 900 people in Clark County, as an example of a critical government employer.

“They are public employers, but they are an important driver in our economy, an important key piece,” Hobbs said.

The base not only employs people directly but also provides work for area contractors.

“That is unique to our region … it’s our strength,” Hobbs said.

But with sequester cuts, no one knows how many jobs might be lost from the base or contractors.

Clark County government has always been in the list of top employers, despite cutting jobs the last decade. Administrator Nathan Kennedy said the county employs around 900 people, down from nearly 1,200 a decade ago.

Kennedy said the drop is because local revenues are down from sales tax and from funding from the state. He said that the sequester will not have a significant impact on county jobs.

City government has also lost employees. The city has dropped about 150 jobs, meaning it no longer is one of the Top 10 employers. Copeland said that because of budget issues, the city has not filled any vacancies.

While Clark County may skew toward the public sector, Greater Ohio’s Brachman said Springfield should also consider itself a part of a regional economy that may have more private sector jobs.

“We would like to see the market start working on its own. Some of (the shift) is driven by demand for services,” Brachman said. “Another thing is it’s important that Springfield recognize it’s part of a larger regional economy which would include the larger Dayton region, and that’s an important part of economic recovery.”

Community Mercy Health Partners, which opened Springfield Regional Medical Center in November 2011, remains No. 1 on the list.

Springfield City Schools has actually grown from last year, with about 930 employees. But school treasurer Dale Miller remains cautious about finances.

“In 2005 we were in fiscal emergency, and it was very difficult to do what was in the best interest of children at the time being financially strapped,” Miller said. “But once we were out, we’ve been very careful and trying to stay within our means.”

The schools are waiting to find out about two issues: Ohio’s budget plan and potential federal cuts.

“There are so many dollars attached to so many issues, so we have to wait and see and work through it,” Miller said. “Fortunately, we have the reserves districts need to have time to make the right decisions.”

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