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City ranks near bottom in population loss

Springfield, Urbana seek new jobs, housing to reserve trends seen in Midwest.

Springfield’s population continued to decline last year, and only 26 U.S. cities have seen bigger losses since the 2010 Census, according to new figures released today.

The estimates show Springfield’s population at 60,147, down from 60,322 in 2011. Springfield has lost approximately .8 percent of its population since the 2010 census, ranking 703 out of 729 incorporated areas nationally with 50,000 or more residents when ranked by percent change.

“I’m not surprised, but I’m always concerned,” said Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland.

Copeland called population decline “a continuing challenge” for both the city and Clark County, which reached a 50-year low with 137,691 residents in 2011.

“The big solution to this is more jobs in the community that will attract more people to live here so we and the county can grow,” Copeland said.

The estimated populations for both Urbana and New Carlisle also declined over the last three years.

Urbana fell to 11,639, down from 11,793 in 2010. New Carlisle dropped to 5,737 estimated residents in 2012, down from 5,785 in 2010.

Springfield ranks 584 out of 729 incorporated areas nationally with 50,000 or more total residents.

Of the 30 cities with largest population drops, seven were from Ohio, including:

• Youngstown, 729th, 2.4 percent.

• Cleveland, 723rd, 1.5 percent.

• Lakewood, 721st, 1.4 percent.

• Parma, 713th, 1.2 percent.

• Toledo, 711th, 1.1 percent.

• Elyria, 705th, 0.8 percent.

• Springfield, 703rd, 0.8 percent.

Dayton and Kettering also ranked high, each losing 0.3 percent of their population since the 2010 census.

While population in most cities continues to decline, Columbus continues to grow. The state capital is the 15th largest city in the U.S. with 809,798 residents, up from 790,456 in 2010.

Last year, the city’s population dipped to its lowest number since the 1920 census showed 60,840 residents. The city’s population topped out at about 82,000 residents in 1960 and has declined since.

The city and county are both working to bring more jobs to the community.

“There are some real possibilities out there that we’re working on,” Copeland said. “We’re trying to increase the number of jobs at employers we’ve got right now, and we’re making progress on that.”

Navistar and Code Blue expect to add hundreds of jobs in the next year. Copeland said two new industrial parks — Champion City Business Park, located at the old International body plant site on Lagonda Avenue, and Prime Ohio II, located near the Clark County Fairgrounds — are both working to attract businesses to the area.

The city has a $9 million parking garage planned in the next three years to help bring more business — and possible residents — downtown. It has also recently completed large housing efforts through the Neighborhood Stabilization Projects.

“All of those are efforts to attract more people to the city,” Copeland said.

Copeland said growth has happened on the east and west coasts in recent years, but not in the Midwest.

“We’re working very hard to bend that trend,” Copeland said.

Despite good news on the job front earlier this week, Bill Bean, Urbana’s mayor,sees challenges if the city wants to stop the slow trickle of residents leaving. State unemployment figures show Champaign County gained about 300 new jobs in the last month, reducing its unemployment rate from 7.7 percent in March to 6.3 percent in April.

But Bean said the city hasn’t had a new housing development in about two decades and has little room for residential growth. Bean said the city will have to continue to add jobs and annex land if it wants to attract residential growth in the future. That continues to be a challenge until the economy improves.

“We need room to breathe, and right now we can’t breathe,” Bean said.

Dave Black, an Atlanta native, lives in Springfield with his wife, Lauren, and son, Owen. He’s the pastor at Soma Community Church and the director of the Springfield Farmer’s Market.

Black, a Cedarville University graduate, said he enjoys the city’s parks and green spaces, as well as events like the Summer Arts Festival.

“The more you get to know Springfield, the more you find out what happens throughout the year,” Black said. “You kind of learn to love it.”

Black believes if some of the city’s issues are going to be improved upon, people need to stay.

“It’s going to take time,” Black said. “We can’t expect to just move here and expect ‘Five years, nothing’s changed.’ The city needs people to stay.”

Black said the church began with several college students, many of whom decided to stay after graduating from Wittenberg or Cedarville.

“Every time I see that, it’s like a tiny victory,” Black said. “We need that.”

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