By Christina Sturgis
With references to the “Rust Belt” and the loss of automobile manufacturing jobs, the future of the Buckeye State appears grim in the Demand Institute’s report: A Tale of 2000 Cities: How the sharp contrast between successful and struggling communities is reshaping America.
One Ohio municipality in particular, Elyria, is singled out for a profile of a “challenged community” suffering from the closing of an auto plant, high unemployment and lack of education.
Yet, in the same geographic region, the Streetsboro Chamber of Commerce chants the real estate mantra of “location, location, location” on its website. Even before European settlers moved into the Western Reserve, the Seneca Indians conducted commerce along the Old Portage Trail, crossing the southwest corner of Streetsboro to go from Lake Erie to the Ohio River Basin, the Chamber states.
A very successful Streetsboro organization shares the Chamber’s vision of potential. Streetsboro is home to the headquarters of the Geis Companies, a design/build firm that controls 16 developments in 10 cities. In the timeframe that roughly coincides with the downward arc of the auto industry, the Geis family was getting to work on its empire.
Erwin and Katherine Geis came to Northeast Ohio from Germany in 1966, building industrial parks and raising a family. The Geis Companies, now in the hands of Erwin and Katherine’s sons, Greg and Fred, has grown so large it has broken into several divisions.
During roughly the same timeframe that the Detroit-based auto industry was struggling to create the small energy-efficient cars necessitated by the energy crisis of the 1970s, the Geis developments were beginning to rise.
While the Demand Institute projects home values in the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor region will only rise 9 percent between 2012 and 2015 and 13 percent between 2012 and 2018, the analysts acknowledge that the 2012 median price of $112,000 will be affordable and help families build roots and communities.