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Automotive and Aerospace Driving Ohio Forward

Aug/Sep 08
Ohio's strategic plan focuses on key industries such as automotive, advanced logistics, biomedical and bio-based products, and sectors that can benefit from its agricultural and industrial heritage.

 Polymers and plastics suppliers boost the automotive industry, which Steve Schoeny, director of the Economic Development Division of the Ohio Department of Development, calls "an industry in flux, but with great strengths." The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland notes that the state's seven final assembly plants and nearly 400 tier-one suppliers place it "second only to Michigan in terms of employment in the motor vehicle industry." The state harbors a mix of traditional American automotive makers, such as Ford and General Motors (GM), as well as plants and headquarters for Honda North America for which Ohio is the North American center for supplier logistics and export of automotive parts to Honda operations around the world. Suppliers get a boost from bordering states, including Toyota's North American operation in Georgetown, Kentucky, and Honda's new plant in Indiana. "We're feeling confident," says Schoeny. In June, GM's Lordstown plant announced the addition of up to 1,400 jobs for an added midnight shift (that was formerly cut in 2006) for the production of its Cobalt, and in 2010, the company will begin production of its new Cruze small car model.

In the advanced and alternative energy category, Schoeny says the state has restructured the electric system to provide cost stability and cost certainty for customers, as well as competitive costs of electricity. "The renewable portfolio standard is generating a lot of interest from renewable energy companies that want to combine their research strengths with manufacturing-based industries," he says, noting that strengths of metalworking, glass, and polymer industries are integral to wind tower and solar panel manufacturing.

In aviation and aerospace, NetJets and FlightSafety International have embarked on an expansion that is slated to create 810 jobs and create the largest flight safety training facility in the world. The project is expected to boost the aeronautical cluster at Port Columbus International Airport, and augment the industry's work force in conjunction with its partnership with Ohio State University. "This industry is primed for some real growth," says Schoeny, noting the already existing capabilities provided by Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, General Electric air craft engines in Cincinnati, and Flight Options in Cleveland.

To encourage more growth in this sector, Governor Ted Strickland changed the sales tax law to exempt sales tax on equipment used for aviation, maintenance and repair. On a broader scale, the governor signed a stimulus package for investment in key industries, work force development, and internships. Says Schoeny, "We have 50 million for bioproducts projects, $100 million for biomedical projects, $150 million for advanced energy industry, and $100 million in advanced logistics and distribution infrastructure." Legislation is included on the ballot in November to increase funding for the Clean Ohio Fund that redevelops brownfield sites.