Demographic Data Tells the Story of Ohio’s Major Urban Markets

Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus are like sized major metro markets that drive much of the economic growth in Ohio.  Major urban markets have the workforce, capital, infrastructure, and other essential tools need for many large-scale corporate site location projects. It is not an accident that Intel looked to Central Ohio for their $20B “fab” facility or Honda and LG for the EV battery plant. 

The success of Ohio’s major metro markets is driven by demographic and economic factors. Columbus is the 14th largest city in the United States with Cleveland ranking 54th and Cincinnati at 65th. The peak population of Cleveland was in 1950 when its population was 914,808 and Cleveland was the 7th largest city in the US. 1950 was a good year for Cincinnati as well. The peak population of Cincinnati was in 1950, when its population was 503,998, and Cincinnati was the 18th largest city in the US. The reality of Ohio’s population trends has been as Columbus has grown Cleveland and Cincinnati have been losing population. In 1950, Columbus had just over 375,000 people in the city and was only the 28th largest U.S. City. 

Population growth is a critical measure of economic success. Growing population centers attract companies struggling to find skilled labor. A growing population base creates a larger pool of workers for companies. As the table below illustrates, the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati have experienced population growth in the last decade but not at the pace of faster-growing cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, and Austin. However, the rapid growth of these regions can create growing pains for companies seeking low-cost land and construction. 

Median household income refers to the income level earned by a given household where half of the households in the geographic area of interest earn more and half earn less as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Median household income is an important demographic measure as it tells companies the relative wealth of a geographic region but also is an illustration of the general cost of doing business as it is one of the indicators of the potential wages of employees. The chart below compares median household income for the same major metro regions.  As the data below illustrates, Columbus and Cincinnati are on ahead on income growth of Cleveland and Charlotte but far behind the high-growth markets of Nashville and Austin.

Comparing regional gross domestic product growth is another critical economic development measure that companies consider.  A regions gross domestic product is the sum of their total economic output for the public and private sector. Regions with growing economies are generally more attractive to companies considering a corporate site location decision.

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve, FRED

As the chart above illustrates the following cities enjoyed a robust growth in GDP: Austin: + 113.16%; Nashville: + 93.33%; Charlotte: + 95.0%; Columbus: + 69.71%; Cincinnati: + 62.26%; and Cleveland: + 43.24%.  This comparison of overall economic growth illustrates Ohio’s major cities are lagging competitors in the South and Southwest.