Living, but not working, in Piqua

In my last column, I began my response to guest columnist Bill Jaqua’s recent series on the city of Piqua, stating that while Jaqua may claim Piqua has lost its manufacturing and industrial base, there is actually still a strong one here. While I want to come back to that in another column later, there was one statement that Jaqua made to which I kept coming back.

Jaqua wrote, “In Troy, the median household income is $51,000 a year, while in Piqua it is $37,000.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2009-2013, the median household income for Piqua was $36,260. For Sidney between 2009-2013, the median income was $43,347. For Troy between 2009-2013, the median household income was $48,570.

All of which was close or somewhat close to what Jaqua was claiming. If there are so many businesses in Piqua — and I was surprised by how many there are — why does Piqua have the lowest median income out of our little love-hate triangle with Troy and Sidney?

Jaqua uses these statistics to try and claim that Piqua’s economy is lacking a manufacturing base and that Piqua’s local government is not doing enough for economic development. What Jaqua fails to note, though, is the source of those Piqua incomes.

Jaqua incorrectly makes the assumption that all Piqua residents are also working in Piqua and, thus, economic development is not getting enough attention in Piqua. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, though, 69.6 percent of Piqua residents are not working within Piqua. Also, 71.5 percent of people working in Piqua live outside of Piqua.

The incomes made from Piqua’s business community may not be staying within Piqua. An argument could be made that Piqua’s economy is doing well, and it is our neighbors who need to step up their game.

When I learned this information, I realized how much of this applied to my own life. Two of my aunts work in Piqua, but neither of them lives here. My parents — before they were my parents and decades before I was even a thought – each worked in Piqua, but they did not live in Piqua at that time. (They met while working at Aerovent, where my father annoyed my mother into marrying him or something disgustingly cute like that.)

The point I am trying to make is actually more of a question. Why is this trend of working in Piqua, but not living in Piqua — or vice versa — happening?

The point about a college education is an old, annoying statistic at this point, but one that is still worth making. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the higher the education level, the higher the pay. The higher the education level, the lower the unemployment rate. The national median weekly earnings for workers in 2009 whose highest education level was a high school diploma was $626. For workers with a bachelor’s degree, the statistic jumped to $1,025.

In Piqua, 10.4 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Sidney, it is 11.6 percent. In Troy, it is 22.5 percent.

Businesses like to higher people with higher education levels. It should not always be a marker of who is going to be a better, more reliable worker, but sometimes it is. When an employer is looking at a stack of resumes, the ones with the Bachelor’s degrees are likely to stand out.

Piqua also offers low income, affordable housing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median value of an owner-occupied housing unit between 2009-2013 was $87,400 in Piqua. In Sidney, it was $105,200. In Troy, it was $123,800.

People are going to live where they can afford to live. People with lower incomes are going to live in homes that they can afford.

This is part of what makes an emphasis on improving the quality of life, improving and building upon one’s downtown area, and creating a destination town is important. A downtown revival and investing in Piqua’s strongest attributes, in addition to having a diverse range of homes to offer as well as Piqua’s new school buildings, can be a part of attracting more people to live in Piqua and a part of making Piqua a better place to be for current residents.