Midwest Manufacturing Renaissance
Being the daughter of a Northeast Ohio manufacturing plant manager, the decline of the “Rust Belt” was hard to go unnoticed in my household. However, the promise of economic renaissance in the manufacturing realm brings hope to the Midwest region.
While the industrial sector has been making strides for the last couple years, the first annual Trust Belt conference, recently held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Columbus, reignited the conversation. Internationally acclaimed economic development leaders, politicians, and educators shared insights and metrics which have started to shatter the “Rust Belt’s” stigma of economic depression. They’re seeking to re-brand the region as the “Trust Belt” to showcase its pivotal role in America’s economic recovery.
Sophia Koropeckyj, a managing director at Moody’s Analytics who has studied economics in the Midwest for nearly 20 years, was one of the presenters. As the Metropreneur reported in their June issue:
“The Midwest economy has not been in as good shape as it is now in 20 years, Koropeckyj says. It has been through its fair share of restructuring, but is making a strong comeback. She says it’s time to put the past in the past and move forward on the strengths the region possesses now."
One of the largest areas of growth has been the Midwest manufacturing industry, which had flourished in the region nearly 40 years ago. Since 2010, there’s been 346,000 manufacturing jobs created in the Midwest, with Ohio accounting for 17,100 of those in the past year. With 52 of Ohio’s 88 counties heavily relying on manufacturing, the revival of this industry couldn’t come at a better time. Released just last month, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported that Ohio’s unemployment rate is still 5.2%, while that figure is slightly lower than 5.7% in 2014, it could still stand to decrease.
Bringing back a long missed industry will not only bring more jobs to Ohio, it will match industrial organizations with quality workers who may still be under-employed. The Midwest was called the “Rust Belt” for a reason. We have seasoned workers that blossom in innovative industrial environments, with many of our cities, including Columbus, OH, ranked as having some of the hardest-working populations in the United States. As such, the Midwest region is a great place for companies looking for hard-working, experienced, and available workers within an already healthy and still-improving economy.
Specifically looking at Ohio, we’re not only shaped like a heart, we’re the pulse of America. We’re centrally located and highly accessible via train, plane, and port. And we’re anticipating growth in our talent pool. Valuing more affordable housing and less-cramped environments, “millennials” are choosing Midwestern towns to put down roots, said Joel Kotkin, internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, at the Trust Belt conference.
And while the technology era continues to shape our culture, industrial companies are innovating and inspiring change more than ever. As described by Matt Hlavin, President and CEO of Thogus, in his recent TEDxCLE presentation, the industrial market is changing perceptions and evolving. In the past, manufacturing was viewed as reactionary, dirty, and labor and capital intensive. Being highly dependent and “at the mercy of the customer” Hlavin explains that a change was eminent. Industrial organizations are becoming more LEAN, employee-focused, and forward thinking.
When you combine business-friendly, fiscally sound and innovative state governments with one of the country’s most well-educated workforces, you’ll land in the Midwest. It’s a perfect place for the most innovative industrial companies to choose to grow their businesses. The only downside to all of this? Traffic. The Dispatch recently reported that Columbus residents have one of the easiest commutes in the country. But that's a small price to pay for decreased unemployment rate, thriving industrial sector, and overall economic growth. I think we can handle a little more traffic.
by MEGAN GROOMS
Megan graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in strategic communication and a minor in professional writing. When she's not working on marketing-related tasks, you'll likely find Megan at a concert or outside with her fur babies (dogs).