Aging workforce a concern as jobs disappear

SANDUSKY Roller coasters have made Sandusky a summer magnet for tourists. Waterparks
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Roller coasters have made Sandusky a summer magnet for tourists.

Waterparks and new stores up and down U.S. 250 lure people to Erie County year-round.

But while the area is attractive for tourists and other temporary residents, the people who choose to live here year-round worry about the local economy.

As manufacturing jobs go the way of the rest of the Rust Belt, high-paying jobs are replaced by jobs that often are seasonal and offer lower pay.

Teens happy to accept summer jobs here start looking for the exit sign when they begin thinking about making a good living and being able to raise families. Young people needed to secure the future of the community often are looking elsewhere for opportunity.

With the growth of service industries, it's a town that offers jobs but not careers, observes Daniel McDuffie, 18, president of the Class of 2007 at Sandusky High School.

McDuffie, who wants to go into politics, considers Sandusky a "very stale" city that isn't open to new ideas or to change.

"I can honestly say, I definitely wouldn't want to come back," he said.

McDuffie and the three other class officers -- Vice President Spencer Patterson, 18, Treasurer Chelsea Lyons, 17, and Secretary Darian Shepherd, 18 -- were asked about their post-graduation plans.

All said they were planning to go to college, and all said they see better opportunities away from Sandusky.

Such comments inspire officials to search for ways to build the local job market.

Edward "Ned" Hill, a professor and distinguished scholar of economic development at Cleveland State University, says it makes sense to listen to what the market is saying. Companies are investing in tourism and retail in Erie County, so it makes sense for the county to encourage more of those investments.

Tom Jackson 5/31/07 pullout for part two of the series

Age demographics in Erie County:

County population aged 25-44 in 2005: 23.3 percent

Erie County median age, 2006: 41.6

National median age, 2006: 37.

Ohio median age, 2006: 38.

County median age increase, 1990-2006: 19 percent