Kent community thrives despite slow economic recovery

Jody Michael

Last week, we received more evidence this economic recovery is going really, really, really, really, really slowly.

The Federal Reserve forecasted our 2011 economic growth will be just 2.7 to 2.9 percent, down from its April estimate of 3.1 to 3.3 percent.

A National Association of Realtors report showed May home sales were at the lowest rate in six months. Plus, the median price is 4.6 percent lower than a year ago.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent in March but rose to 9.1 percent in May.

Both nationwide manufacturing activity and consumer confidence were higher in February than at any time in more than two years, but those, too, have fallen.

All these things are a little frightening, but they also make the massive current and upcoming construction projects in downtown Kent seem even more impressive.

We have already seen workers downtown for the past two years constructing the new Fairchild Avenue bridge. That work will continue through the end of 2012. When it’s done, it will greatly improve the pace of car and pedestrian traffic in what has been the most congested intersection in Portage and Summit counties.

Acorn Alley II is making rapid progress and should be complete before the fall semester begins. Then, next fall we can expect even more restaurants and retail shops in a new building downtown. Even better news is that the building’s two main tenants will be Davey Tree and AMETEK, who together will move 150 employees into new offices.

Dix Communications is also moving its headquarters to Kent and will soon be on West Main Street.

To make Kent more transportation-friendly, PARTA will be building a multimodal center downtown. It will provide a new facility for PARTA and perhaps other bus companies, as well as parking spaces and bicycle parking, and it will be near the Portage Hike and Bike Trail. Also, Kent State is extending the esplanade to Haymaker Parkway in order to make the trek downtown easier for pedestrians.

The university is also building a hotel and conference center on Depeyster Street.

Then we have the icing on the cake: Kent State’s record enrollment. Last year, we surpassed the University of Cincinnati to become Ohio’s second-largest university. This year, university officials expect freshman enrollment will break the record of 4,030 set in 2009. More students mean more people frequenting local businesses and more potential employees.

That is a lot of new business developments for one city. All of this will lead to more revenues, higher property values, school district funds and more. Restaurants are already getting increased business from the construction workers eating lunch here. I think Kent will experience a much better and faster economic recovery than most of America.

Congratulations to the City of Kent officials, business owners and, yes, even President Lester Lefton, for making this possible. It makes me even happier to be here.

Jody Michael is a junior news major. Contact him at [email protected].