The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) has been calling attention to Ohio’s so-called “legacy cities.”  These are the smaller to mid-sized cities across the state other than Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Canton and Youngstown.  Cities like Portsmouth, Mansfield, and Lorain.

A recent Dispatch editorial called attention to GOPC’s efforts regarding Ohio’s legacy cities citing to a recent GOPC report.  Once fact highlighted in the report shows that, despite the nation’s booming economy, legacy cities continue to struggle.

Between 2000 and 2014, most Ohio cities with populations of 20,000 or more lost jobs, population and property value even as Columbus and the state overall improved on those measures.

With the loss of population and jobs comes more brownfield sites-  More empty buildings and factories with legacy pollution issues complicating their reuse.  It is difficult enough to attract new companies and jobs to smaller cities in Ohio, but the additional hurdle of historical contamination deters reuse.

The only way to address these properties is through brownfield grant programs such as former Clean Ohio program.  Grant funds are needed to pay for cleanup to prepare sites for reuse.  The State cannot wait until a company or developer shows interest in these properties.  That interest may never come if the company or developer has deal with the added cost of historical pollution on site.

As detailed in a prior post, with the sunset of the Clean Ohio program, brownfield cleanups declined.  The Voluntary Action Program (VAP) is the Ohio EPA cleanup program.  Here are the statistics of the number of completed cleanups in the last two years:

  • 2018 there were eighteen (18) completed VAP cleanups
  • 2019 there were nine (9) completed VAP cleanups with several pending
  • At the height of the Clean Ohio program, Ohio was completing thirty-five (35) VAP cleanups per year

GOPC has been advocating for new funding into the Clean Ohio program as one strategy to help legacy cities.  The Columbus Dispatch editorial board endorsed that proposal.  Now is the time to provide that funding while the economy in Ohio is still fairly strong.  Once the next recession hits, legacy cities will fall even further down the priority list.