If hope floats, Youngstown would be heaven

In the past three years, Youngstown has garnered considerable national attention as a great city for entrepreneurs and a wonderful place to live.

A tour of the city of Youngstown’s website lists 12 articles since August 2009 that swathe the city in a blanket of hope and prosperity.

But the claims miss the mark when these outsiders carelessly use employment and housing statistics to paint a rosy picture of a blighted and jobless city.

In the most recent article, Forbes magazine sports writer Tom Van Riper took a stab at the best cities to raise a family. He must have had a great hot dog while attending a local sporting event because what he found tastes more like baloney to us.

In his article, he writes, “Other metros making the grade: Youngstown, Ohio, where incomes are still depressed but where cost of living is low and schools are good.”

Schools are good? Youngstown schools? I guess last year’s academic watch rating is better than the academic emergency rating the school system received the prior two years.

The Brookings Institution is another organization choking on statistics. They reported in an article last month that Youngstown is one of the 20 strongest-performing metros. They also reported Allentown, Pa., as one of the 20 weakest-performing metros.

If you’re a local, then you know that Allentown and Youngstown are post-industrial cities that ride the Rust Belt. The only difference between the two: Allentown survived.

Youngstown unemployment peaked at nearly 20 percent in 1994, then again in 2010 at 15.3 percent — only to settle at 10.9 percent in February. Allentown’s unemployment rate has never exceeded 12.5 percent in the past 30 years and was actually lower than Youngstown in February.

Lastly, and perhaps most laughable, the National Association of Home Builders reported in February that the Youngstown metro area was “the most affordable major housing market in the country during the fourth quarter” of 2011.

It’s easy to pick a city off a list of low housing prices. It’s not so easy to live in that city where blighted and vacant homes depreciate the housing market like worms in an apple orchard.

So, before you swallow the next round of irresponsible statistics, make sure the person who is doing the research spends a little time here.