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Here’s why Donald Trump’s motto may not resonate with Cleveland’s economy

Preparations for the GOP Convention were underway at the Qucken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17, 2016.
Jacob Pramuk | CNBC
Preparations for the GOP Convention were underway at the Qucken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 17, 2016.

CLEVELAND — Donald Trump's campaign slogan may jibe well with many Americans, but it may be antithetical with how this Ohio city's economy has changed recently.

A worker stands on the rear platform of a bottle car full of molten steel inside the ArcelorMittal steel mill complex in Cleveland, Ohio.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A worker stands on the rear platform of a bottle car full of molten steel inside the ArcelorMittal steel mill complex in Cleveland, Ohio.

The presumptive Republican nominee's motto — "Make America Great Again" — in some ways embodies the manufacturing past the United States has moved away from. In 1950, manufacturing accounted for 31.54 percent of jobs in the U.S., according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Cleveland, the Republican National Convention's host city with a population of about 390,000, saw an economic boom in the 1950s, primarily driven by manufacturing.

"When you go back into the 1950s, it was one of the 20 biggest metro areas in the country," said Joel Elvery, regional economist at the Cleveland Federal Reserve.

In 2015, however, manufacturing jobs made up just 8.61 percent of total U.S. labor, BLS data showed, a fall that's been felt across the nation, especially in Cleveland.

"Every time there is a decline in manufacturing [jobs], there was a decline in population," Elvery said. Between 2000 and 2004, Cleveland's manufacturing sector lost 24 percent of its jobs, Elvery added, and, from 2000 to 2005, the number of residents fell 1.4 percent.

Elvery also said the population in the Cleveland area fell 2 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Because of these declines, Cleveland's economy was forced to reinvent itself.

In a March report, the Cleveland Fed said the metro area's two fastest-growing sectors were leisure and hospitality, growing at a rate of 2.4 percent, and financial activities, at a 1.7 percent rate, in a 12-month period ending last September.

"This has also become a foodie town," said Amy Roth, a tailor from Euclid, less than 20 minutes outside of Cleveland. "The restaurants are doing very well."

Sherry Maxwell, president and owner of Courier Health Care of Euclid, about 20 minutes south of Cleveland, said "it seems like Cleveland is coming back."

She noted that the city got a much-needed morale boost earlier this year, when the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first-ever NBA championship.

Even the much maligned manufacturing sector is changing for the better, said Mark Sniderman, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University and a former Cleveland Fed official.

Sniderman noted that despite the job losses in manufacturing, technology has helped the sector and Cleveland's overall economy get healthier by boosting its productivity and efficiency, which is why a return to the past may not be in the city's interest.

"When people talk about the past, … I encourage them to see that the goods and services we use are made through" a combination of services, he said. "Companies are combining jobs that are service-sector jobs to work with manufacturing."

Trump is set to officially accept the Republican party's nomination Thursday in Cleveland.