Strengthening Stark Calls for New Resources and Action
The recent report issued by the Stark Community Foundation and Stark Civic Group, Strengthening Stark: A Call for Economic Transformation, offers a hard look at the county's future. It calls for additional resources and concerted actions to create new jobs, prepare a skilled workforce, and make those jobs accessible.
The facts are sobering. Stark's population fell to an estimated 375,165 in 2015 and, on its current course, is projected to fall further over the next decade. The county is getting older. The current median age in Stark is 42.1 years - nearly four years older than the national median. In 2009, 9% of Stark Countians lived in poverty but by 2015, it was 15%. From 2007 to 2016, total employment in the Canton-Massillon MSA fell from 168,598 to 164,733.
Yet, there is hope. The Stark Civic Group states, "We are confident that implementing a collaborative economic plan that leverages our county's and region's strengths can reverse the negative trends..."
Action is already being generated. A new Stark Board of Trade has been created by six local foundations, the Stark Community Foundation loaned $3 million (part of a $35 million package) to redevelop the Hercules Engine Plant, and the Hall of Fame Village all demonstrate a willingness to invest in our community. Equally encouraging is that recommendations in the Strengthening Stark report are already being enacted:
- The Stark Economic Development Board has begun to coordinate efforts to develop a shared economic development plan for the county as well as exploring organizational structure and operations changes to better support its partners.
- Economic and workforce development agencies are investigating how they can integrate their respective efforts to strengthen job preparation.
- The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce is looking into options with county/state officials that will increase public investment in Stark's economic development.
"Stark County is on the verge of transformation," reports the Stark Civic Group. "While the path to success will be challenging, we are confident that our community will support a new, shared economic plan that will sustain [a] high quality of life..."
Members of the Foundation and the Stark Civic Group are eager to engage with the community. Go to starkcf.org/strengthingstark for more information and to sign up for future email updates.