Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Roadmap for Ohio in 2050

Joel Kotkin's book The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050 gives a vision for how the Heartland could see a revival in the next forty years fueled by 1/3 greater population.

He's given us a vision for a better future in Ohio and Licking County.  But what's the roadmap?  How do you turn a fact-based vision into an action-based roadmap?

Here it is.

These key things, among many, come to mind to me as things that below on a Licking County and Ohio roadmap:

Embrace Manufacturing.  It's time to go back to Ohio's roots and totally re-focus on manufacturing as the focus of our future.  The things that fueled two centuries of Ohio's growth remain intact to fuel the next one.  Licking County needs to prepare for two yet-unborn generations who are going to work in manufacturing, and it starts with embracing manufacturing.

Invest in Skills Training.  The growth in manufacturing that Kotkin predicts will continue to be in the area that has actually grown in the manufacturing sector in the past few decades--highly-skilled technicians working in advanced manufacturing environments.  The places that win are the ones that can prove that they can provide highly-skilled technicians to answer industry needs.  We need to re-invigorate skills training and pre-employment training to produce certifications and degrees for people to work in manufacturing industry of the future.  Manufacturing is high-tech.

Put Out the Welcome Mat.  Kotkin predicts global workforce shortages that are going to put a strain on the labor market and threaten production capacity. We need to keep in touch with those hords of "brain drain" people who left our state for supposedly greener pastures and be ready to welcome them back.  They are a big part of the solution to a workforce shortage problem.  Many of these "homesick Ohioans" are eager to come back too, if there's a job there for them.

Plan for Smart Sprawl.  The Brookings Institution, Greater Ohio, and others are trying to steer Ohio to "Smart Growth" policies which beg for denser highways, denser schools, and denser living.  Kotkin has the more favorable Ohio alternative, and he calls it "Smart Sprawl."  Licking County and the greatest-growth-potential pockets of Ohio need to prepare to welcome the tens of millions of people from families, large ones, that prefer quality amenties, environmentally-friendly living, nearby workplaces, and, most-of-all, single-family homes.  Keep building bike paths, Licking County!

Build New, Green Infrastructure.  Keep building.  New highways and all sorts of new infrastructure will still be needed, not just constant rebuilding of the old ones.  We need to focus on how to add more transportation capacity and yet still make those highways "green" by connecting to other modes of transportation.  Licking County connects to the Ohio River, but can it connect better, faster, cheaper?  It can.

There's more to do, but I'd much rather prepare for a future like the one Kotkin envisions.  And we can.


See for more Licking County-friendly reading.

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