It always amazes people who come Clinton County for the first time. They have a perception our entire economy was built around an airport, then they see how diverse our economy really is — particularly in manufacturing.
Our industries range from automotive electronics at New Sabina Industries, to power steering units at American Showa in Blanchester, to pharmaceuticals at Alkermes, to paper bag manufacturing at Hood Packaging to medical devices at Ferno.
The list goes on and the level of investment and technical expertise can be staggering. In total there are 44 businesses classified as manufacturing in Clinton County with over 3,300 jobs with $175 million in annual payroll and 200-300 new jobs in the pipeline for 2017.
When I think about our strong manufacturing environment, I think about when I was business student at OSU over 35 years ago. In a series of lectures, professors were claiming that America no longer needed or wanted to be a country that manufactured goods and that we desperately needed, and would move to, a Service Industry society. I understood that concept, because Massey Ferguson tractors were no longer being made in Detroit and it seemed like everyone who worked in the auto industry was continually being laid off.
We were moving toward a global economy and just a few clicks away from punch cards to personal computers.
During those years of transition, America and Clinton County struggled. Losing the Cincinnati Milacron and the Irwin Tool Company in the ’90s was a big deal. The invention of the high-speed drill bit was the foundation for a lot of the Wilmington economy for over 100 years.
Eventually it became clear that service industry jobs also depended heavily on manufacturing jobs and manufacturing supplied some of the best-paying jobs with or without a college degree. Manufacturing underwent a total transformation in America, and because of our strong history, location and workforce, we have been able to capitalize and benefit from those transformations in our communities.
Foundries have been transformed into state-of-the-art injected molded machines. Aluminum engine parts traditionally made in places like Michigan or Japan have found their way to us in our companies like Ahresty. Long before Polaris became a major distributor in Clinton County, a local company was closely working with them on machining designs for the Polaris UTV’s. The Chinette brand of products is produced in New Vienna. Camelback water bottles are printed in Blanchester. Commercial display units are manufactured and shipped to grocery stores all over the eastern United States by Thirey Cabinetry.
In Ohio and the rest of the USA, manufacturing has been a hot topic of debate.
Locally and in Ohio as a whole, a lot of attention and resources have been given to training and education. There has also been a much-needed shift in educating our parents and younger students on the benefits of training and certificates related to the good manufacturing jobs available in our communities today.
Again, we are fortunate to have many local resources in Laurel Oaks, Southern State and Wilmington College to support this.
I have traveled to many parts of the world and have toured manufacturing plants of all kinds, so in that debate, there are many factors that make up why certain products are made overseas. I then come back to Clinton County and I understand, and I am reminded why it works so well here.