Study: Erie Among Nation's Slowest-Growing Cities

October 2nd, 2018, 12:00 AM

Article from 

The basis for the rankings was divided between measures of population growth — or decline — and measures of economic growth.

It's no surprise that the city of Erie isn't growing.

U.S. Census Bureau numbers released in June show that the city's estimated population fell from 98,289 in 2016 to 97,369 in 2017.

But WalletHub, the personal finance website, recently took an in-depth look into the growth of U.S. cities, weighing not only population growth but also a dozen different economic indicators to paint a more complete picture of community and economic growth.

The ranking that emerged from that analysis did not cast Erie in a flattering light.

In a list of 515 cities, led by Fort Myers, Florida, Erie ranked 513th. Only Shreveport, Louisiana, and Decatur, Illinois, were ranked lower.

The basis for the rankings was divided evenly between measures of population growth — or decline — and measures of economic growth.

In addition to overall population growth, the study measured population growth among the working-age population and among college-educated residents.

Measures of economic growth for each city included the growth of median household income, increase in business startups, change in gross domestic product, increase in venture capital investment, poverty rate decrease and growth in building permit activity.

Erie performed better in some categories than others but generally ranked near the bottom. The city's highest reported score was a ranking of 315th for median household income growth

In a broad sense, the ranking reflects reality, said Ken Louie, professor of economics at Penn State Behrend and director of Behrend's Economic Research Institute of Erie.

"In addition to the standard things like population growth, they are also looking at things like new startups and venture capital funding," he said. "At that level, I'm afraid we have to be kind of concerned."

But the study has its limitations, he said.

By limiting results to the city itself, the study ignores a lot of good news taking place just outside the city limits, he said. Business growth in places like Harborcreek and Summit townships aren't being counted.

Erie Mayor Joe Schember said he's not losing sleep over a ranking based on information that's a year or two old.

"We are not two years ago. We are today," he said. "I could not be more excited about the progress we are making today and the way our local leaders are working together."

Schember was quick Monday to rattle off a list of what has changed over the past year or so, including the launch of the Erie Downtown Development Corp., advancing construction of the new Erie Insurance office building, construction of a new bayfront hotel by Scott Enterprises and the Smart City Accelerator initiative overseen by the Erie Innovation District.

"There is so much exciting going on right now," Schember said. "A year-old survey is not going to faze me a bit. I think it (change) is happening right now."

Louie acknowledges the current realities are grim. It's hard to spin 513th out of 515 into anything positive.

But he also acknowledges that momentum seems to be shifting.

The study might take on a different look "if we can give some of these things time to take root."

Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter

Return to all All News