Where Jobs Locate Matters

Research Identifying Job Hubs in Northeast Ohio

What Are Job Hubs?

Job hubs are specific places of concentrated economic activity in a region. They are defined and identified based on the extent to which they exhibit the following four characteristics:

  • High concentration of traded-sector jobs: We identified job hubs based on the number of traded-sector jobs in a particular area, with a focus on places with job density in the top 5 percent in the region. The research focused specifically on identifying clusters of employment in sectors of the economy like manufacturing or business consulting that can export (or trade) goods and services outside of Northeast Ohio. To learn more about the importance of the traded sector and why we focused on it in this study, download our full report here.
  • Multiple traded-sector employers: Job hubs represent "clusters" of business activity and other assets like roads, highways, transit, and utilities. Business clustering allows for efficient use of infrastructure and creates other spill-over benefits from the accumulation of human and physical capital.
  • Alignment with local development patterns: Job hubs reflect local development patterns and the location of businesses, infrastructure, transportation assets, and land inventory in each place. This alignment with the built-environment will hopefully facilitate local community planning discussions around potential land use policies, transportation investments or other strategies to enhance each job hub's market competitiveness.
  • Alignment with civic priorities and economic development opportunities: Beyond encompassing many existing businesses and jobs, job hubs also contain high-quality sites with existing infrastructure or office inventory that, if occupied, could further add density to the job hub. As we continue to develop the research, we hope to work with local partners across Northeast Ohio to promote the vibrancy and growth of regional job hubs that can compete in the global 21st-century economy.

Why Do Job Hubs Matter?

"The location of employment within a metro area intersects with a range of policy issues—from transportation to workforce development to regional innovation—that affect a region’s long-term health, prosperity, and social inclusion.​"

"...commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of low-income families there moving up the ladder."

Over the last several decades in Northeast Ohio, our industrial, commercial and residential development has expanded outward, while the number of people living here and the number of jobs located here has remained about the same. The result: People are increasingly disconnected from jobs. Indeed, residents in the Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown areas saw huge drops in the number of nearby jobs from 2000 to 2012, according to a study from the Brookings Institution. This trend is even worse for residents of low-income neighborhoods.

The spatial mismatch between people and jobs has real costs. People spend more time and money commuting; businesses struggle to fill open positions; municipalities spend on infrastructure to support new development while having to maintain the underutilized assets left behind; and our environment suffers as air quality declines due to long, car-based commutes. Ultimately, our regional economy loses its competitive edge.

Click on the images below to learn more about how spatial mismatch impacts the community.



Unemployed individuals find work faster the closer they live to jobs. The growing distance between people and jobs in Northeast Ohio likely means it takes more time for these workers to re-join the economy.

Once employed, residents spend a greater share of their income on transportation than on housing. This is due in large part to the cost of commuting long distances to work. A good resource for this is Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing and Transportation Affordability Index tool.

Click here to read about the experiences of individuals living and working in our region who have faced commuting challenges.



Businesses face challenges filling open positions in part because available workers live farther and farther away from jobs.

In a survey of more than 300 business owners conducted by Team NEO and Kent State University at Stark, respondents said “attendance” and “showing up ready to work on time” were the biggest challenges to making new employees successful.

While there are many factors that could contribute to this challenge, the long commutes faced by our region's workers likely play an important role.



Much of the new development in Northeast Ohio has meant the conversion of greenfields — farmland and other undeveloped space — into new housing, office space and industrial parks.

To support these development patterns, municipalities must spend increasing amounts of their tax revenue to provide infrastructure for new development while also maintaining the often vacant or underutilized infrastructure that's left behind.

Research conducted during the VibrantNEO 2040 process suggests that the continuation of these trends would spell fiscal doom for our region's municipalities.



Declining air quality in our region negatively impacts all people who call Northeast Ohio home.

Increasing the connection between people and jobs, and providing residents with transportation options beyond the one-person, one-vehicle commute, can help mitigate these troubling trends.

Job hubs can help us better understand and address these issues.

Any conversation about sustainable economic growth should begin with job hubs.

The reasons for our outward expansion are many, but cannot be chalked up to free market forces alone. Fragmented, dispersed, unaligned decisions on where to allocate public incentives, how to prioritize land aggregation, and what infrastructure upgrades to invest in have had a compounding impact over time. Just as past decisions have led to our current situation, decisions our leaders make now can shape the development of the future.

Supporting business growth around a thoughtfully identified and competitive job hub can form the foundation of an economy that is attractive for businesses to grow, efficient for citizens to access, fiscally prudent, and environmentally responsible. And it is a concept that allows for growth throughout the region since there are job hubs in cities, suburbs and rural communities.

Where are Northeast Ohio's Traded-Sector Job Hubs?

Explore the data! Click on a job hub.

Note: The regional job hubs map remains a work in progress as we continue to validate the research with local partners.

Source: LEHD 2002-2014 Census data. "Other Industry" includes Construction, Wholesale Trade, and Transportation and Warehousing. "Office-Professional" includes Information, Management, Finance and Insurance, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, and Real Estate and Leasing. "Population Serving" industries shown on the line chart include Crop and Animal Production, Mining, Quarrying and Gas Extraction, Utilities, Retail Trade, Administrative and Support and Waste Management Services, Educational Services, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, and Accommodation and Food Services sectors. Drive times and transit commute times were calculated using OpenTripPlanner. Transit commute times are currently available only for job hubs in counties where research team was able to obtain valid GTFS data files (Cuyahoga, Lake, and Summit Counties).

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The residents of our community often bear the brunt of these job access challenges. Below are stories collected from individuals across Northeast Ohio. The names of all individuals have been changed to protect their privacy.

Click on the dots to the right to read the stories we heard. Have a story to share? Tweet #stranded @thefundneo

Robby once walked 12.5 miles from Ohio City to Lyndhurst to get to a gig. It took a little over four hours—one way—to get to Brush High School to play piano for its spring musical. A freelance pianist, Robby has lived in downtown Cleveland for 15 years. His car was stolen 10 years ago, and he’s been a pedestrian—as he likes to refer to himself—ever since.

Robby often spends up to five hours a day commuting around the region to various paying performances. “This means that going to and from work is the only thing I have time to accomplish the whole day,” he said. When he works on weekends, when there is less frequent bus service, he ends up walking most of the time. “I have showed up to work on countless occasions or given performances sopping wet, freezing cold, numb, sweaty, smelly, and generally unprofessionally haggard,” he said.

“If I had a car, I could accept more gigs, but without that additional work, I cannot save up enough to buy a car in the first place,” he added. “Most people living at the poverty level like me can only afford to buy used cars, which frequently break down and have no warranty.” Robby doesn’t have a smartphone either, so ride-sharing services like Uber aren’t available to him. On occasion, a friend will give him a lift to a gig. Beyond dealing with the long commutes, Robby says he also faces a certain stigma from taking the bus. “Most people are horrified when they hear I take the bus and feel bad for me.”

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About The Fund

The Fund For Our Economic Future is an alliance of funders dedicated to advancing economic growth and equitable access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio by building shared comunity committment, supporting high-impact collaborations and marshalling strategic funding.