That brings Ohio back to its manufacturing heritage, a sector that had finally been showing some glimmers of hope after years of decline. But it, too, faces serious challenges.
Once upon a time, Youngstown was America's third-largest steel producer, with a peak population of 170,000. But when the city's main employer, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, shut down in 1977, Youngstown's population fell by half, and the area never fully recovered. Oil and natural gas exploration in the nearby Marcellus and Utica Shales has begun to change Youngstown's fortunes. That's because fracking requires steel tubing, and steel is in Youngstown's DNA.
Read MoreHow Youngstown, Ohio, became a poster child for post-industrial America
Unemployment in the city has plunged from a prerecession high of 12.7 percent to 5.5 percent today. Some are finding work in the oil fields and in related construction. Manufacturing jobs are holding steady—something Youngstown had not been able to say until recently—and a French steel tubing manufacturer, Vallourec Star, recently spent $1.1 billion on a new manufacturing facility. A sister company, VAM USA, is spending another $86 million to expand its pipe threading operations.
But something else has been plunging along with Ohio's jobless rate: the price of oil. That is changing the economics of fracking practically on a daily basis, particularly in higher-cost areas like Ohio and Pennsylvania. While analysts have previously said that shale oil and natural gas could add millions of jobs to the U.S. economy, most of those predictions were made when the profit potential was higher.
As for Akron, the city that Chrissie Hynde sang of as "gone" 30 years ago has definitely returned. Once known as the tire and rubber capital of the world and home to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., it has added polymers, information technology and biomedical engineering to its business portfolio. Unemployment is a mere 4.8 percent.
Read MoreManufacturing in Ohio seeing a slow, steady growth
But like the state of Ohio and the rest of the Rust Belt, it is still unclear whether the current boom will end the same way the last one did.
This week, CNBC is looking in-depth at Ohio, and whether talk of a Rust Belt Rebound is for real. We will have special reports on CNBC and CNBC.com.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported the status of the Vallourec Star plant in Youngstown.