Residents encouraged to discuss options to improve region’s economy

Citizens and members of the media share their thoughts about Springfield with each other during the Your Voice Ohio community meeting at Clark State Monday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Citizens and members of the media share their thoughts about Springfield with each other during the Your Voice Ohio community meeting at Clark State Monday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Clark County has assets including higher educational institutions and a growing number of manufacturing jobs that can help the area drive its economic recovery forward, according to several area residents who attended a forum at Clark State Community College Monday night.

Those who attended also pointed out that the area continues to face several challenges, including lingering generational poverty and newer, affordable housing. But several residents said they are optimistic that it is possible to tackle some of those problems and offer more opportunities for the region’s residents.

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“It’s getting better, but there’s still room for improvement,” said Ross McGregor, a former state representative and executive vice president of Pentaflex, an auto parts maker in Springfield.

About a dozen residents attended the discussion sponsored by Your Voice Ohio, a collaboration of several media outlets working to encourage people to get together to discuss the challenges facing local communities. The organization hosted a similar event in Dayton earlier this week, and has tacked issues such as opioid addiction in previous years.

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Some of the most important issues brought up by residents Monday included looking to battle generational poverty, bring more business to downtown Springfield and ensure job opportunities and other resources are available to all parts of the county.

Elise Hagan, who is with Americorps Vista working with the Springfield Promise Neighborhood, said she’s glad to see Clark County increasingly attract new jobs. But she said she’s concerned that some parts of Springfield have a tougher time attracting jobs that pay a liveable wage.

“All of the horn-blowing of bringing business to Springfield, we don’t see it on the south side,” Hogan said.

The area has had some success bringing new attractions downtown. The News-Sun reported last week that the Myers Market building at 101 S. Fountain Ave. will soon undergo a $1.75 million renovation. The restored venue will eventually host amenities like space for small business owners and a year-round artisan’s marketplace.

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Pat Williams, a Springfield native who pushed for the project, said drawing more people downtown could easily create a tipping point that could attract new investment to the city. But he said local leaders need to be aggressive and market downtown to businesses in neighboring cities to make it work.

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“The city should be as regulation-free as they can right now in that corridor,” Williams said.

Residents also discussed options to provide more opportunities to children and adults to battle stubborn issues like generational poverty. One suggestion included expanding Clark State Community College’s Champion City Scholars program to students at an earlier age.

Middle School students who are accepted and complete that program can receive three years of tuition-free education at Clark State.

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