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Published: 6/28/2007

Population keeps falling in Toledo

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Toledo's population loss since 2000 was the 10th-fastest among 258 U.S. cities with populations of more than 100,000 people, according to a new annual estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Toledo's population fell from 313,782 residents in 2000 to an estimated 298,446 last July, a loss of 15,336 people, or 4.9 percent.

The new estimate means Toledo's population declined by 2,839 people one year - from 301,285 in July, 2005.

A bright spot is that, at 0.94 percent, the estimated population decline is slower than the 1.1 percent decline posted this time last year.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner last night said the numbers aren't a big surprise, and he predicted the slide will likely continue.

"I'm not surprised and I'm not upset," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "I would think eventually we would wind up around, oh, I would say around 240,000 to 275,000, would be my guess.

"I don't think it's the number. I think it's the quality that you offer in a city - a combination of things from jobs, to neighborhoods, cultural activities, and sport activities, art activities," the mayor said.

He noted that the estimates are based on a statistical model rather than a head count.

Ohio has more communities than any other state that fall among the top 10 big cities in terms of population loss. Cleveland falls third on the list, Dayton is sixth, and Toledo is 10th.

Demographers blame the population decline on a migration to the suburbs, residents seeking jobs in other states, and aging baby boomers leaving Ohio for retirement.

Toledo has experienced some economic disappointments in the recent past, notably the move of Owens-Illinois Inc. world headquarters from downtown to Perrysburg and the entry into bankruptcy of Dana Corp.

Recently, Toledo has seen significant reinvestment by DaimlerChrysler AG and General Motors Corp.

City Councilman Mark Sobczak, chairman of council's economic development committee, said he can't put his finger on a specific economic event or demographic group that would account for the population loss.

"We're certainly in a part of the country that has suffered with regard to manufacturing, and we rely heavily on manufacturing. That's why we're working on attracting a more knowledge-based economy," Mr. Sobczak said. "It just goes to show that all our efforts with our economic partners need to continue and be redoubled."

Council President Rob Ludeman said he believes at least his South Toledo district is growing in population, based on the number of new condo, villa, and single-family home developments.

"The population downtown and near downtown has increased. I question the validity of the figures," he said.

Mark Salling, a demographer at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs, said the loss of manufacturing jobs makes it more difficult for residents without a college education to find jobs.

"We're losing the less educated faster than we're losing the more educated," he said. He said the cities are losing residents to the suburbs, with no one to replace them.

"We're no longer receiving the immigrant populations we did," he said.

The exodus is being fueled by the automobile and extensive highway system that enables people to live outside the cities and commute to work.

"We are subsidizing development in exurbia at the cost of population and stability in the inner city," Mr. Salling said.

Dan Johnson, professor of public policy and economic development at the University of Toledo, said the population drain is also being fueled by college-age students going to less expensive colleges in other states and then not returning to Ohio.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said the report underscores Toledo's need to attract new jobs.

"It's about economy and getting an education for our kids so they can have a future," Ms. Fedor said.



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