According to the 1950 U.S. Census, Cleveland was the country’s seventh-largest city in population. Nearby Akron, which then was well known as the “Rubber City,” was larger in population than Miami, Florida. Not-so-far-away Canton was larger than Phoenix. That was before air conditioning made Florida and Arizona livable.

Since then, Cleveland’s population has shrunk from 914,800 to 376,600 and has dropped to No. 54 in national standing. Akron has shrunk from 274,600 to 197,000 and Canton from 116,900 to 69,800. Phoenix ranks No. 5 nationally and is 25 times as populous as Canton.

Nowadays, though, American population centers are recognized as Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The Cleveland MSA, consisting of Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, with a population of 2.09 million, ranks a lowly 34th, behind No. 33 Indianapolis, No. 32 Columbus, No. 30 Cincinnati and No. 27 Pittsburgh.

The Akron MSA, consisting of Summit and Portage counties, ranks 83rd nationally in population, behind such un-notable places as Oxnard-Thousand-Oaks-Ventura, Calif. The Canton-Massillon MSA, consisting of Stark and Carroll counties, ranks 137th, behind Salisbury, Md.-Del.

We’ve lost our former national stature, and it’s not right. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to the delineations of MSAs.

Take Indianapolis. Its MSA encompasses 6,029 square miles with a 2020 population of about 2.1 million, which equates to a density of 350 persons per square mile. The Canton MSA includes just 980 square miles and a population of over 401,000 for a higher density of 413 persons per square mile.

The Columbus MSA, which includes 10 central Ohio counties, covers 3,169 square miles and a population of 2.14 million, a density of 675 persons per square mile. The Akron MSA includes a much smaller area of 923 square miles with a population of over 702,000, a higher density of 762 persons per square mile.

The Cleveland MSA covers 2,046 square miles, which is less than a quarter the size of MSA No. 31 Kansas City or MSA No. 21 St. Louis. Why would those two Missouri cities be entitled to larger MSA populations and higher profiles than Cleveland?

The Pittsburgh MSA, which includes part of West Virginia and even breaches the Ohio line, covers well over double the land area of the Cleveland MSA. There is no rational reason why our Pennsylvania neighbor ranks higher on the MSA list. Its density of 449 persons per square mile is less than half of Cleveland’s 1,005 persons per square mile.

MSA No. 26 Sacramento, Calif., covers 21,429 square miles, which is more than five times as large as the Cleveland, Akron and Canton MSAs combined. The population of a Cleveland-Akron-Canton MSA would be nearly 3.2 million with a density of 808 persons per square mile. That’s about 400,000 larger in population and more than seven times the Sacramento MSA density.

If there was one big Cleveland-Akron-Canton MSA, instead of three smaller MSAs, its population and ranking would jump from 34th in the country to 17th. With a total area of 3,949 square miles, this Northeast Ohio MSA still would be more compact than three-quarters of the 16 MSAs that it would surpass in population.

Prior to the recent decennial U.S. Census, there was an effort by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to work with Greater Cleveland’s Akron and Canton counterparts toward regaining the region’s just desserts.

Reportedly, there was resistance from Akron’s mayor, who somehow believes his No. 83 MSA would be eroded in national stature and identity by being part of a No. 17 Cleveland-Akron-Canton MSA.

Most people in MSA No. 136 Peoria, Ill., surely know that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland and that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton. But does anybody in MSA No. 118 Killeen-Winter Haven, Texas, know where the National Inventors Hall of Fame is? For the benefit its neighbors and should-be MSA siblings, the Inventors Hall happens to be in Akron.

Dave Lange is the former editor of Chagrin Valley Times, Solon Times and Geauga Times Courier.

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