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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Region said ready for auto growth

Despite being heavily affected by restructuring and downsizing by the Big Three automakers, the upper Midwest is poised for future investment in the automotive industry, an auto analyst said yesterday.

The education and skilled training of the workforce are among the factors that will attract investment in the automotive industry, Kim Hill told about 40 business and government leaders at an event sponsored by the Wood County Economic Development Commission.

Mr. Hill, who spoke at the Owens Community College Workforce and Community Services Building, said the economic vitality of the region will not be directly tied to the successes or failures of individual auto companies.

Instead, he said, "we certainly believe the long term success of the North American automobile industry will rely on a group of assets that can only be found in this region."

He is automotive communities program director for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., a nonprofit group.

The Wood economic development group is a founding member of the Automotive Communities Program, which links the major traditional centers of automotive activity to each other.

The Ohio Department of Development, city of Lima, FirstEnergy Corp., Defiance County Economic Development Commission, and Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership also belong to the program.

Among the strengths that the upper Great Lakes region offers and that are attractive to the automotive industry are a skilled and trainable workforce, transportation systems, educational infrastructure, and integrated supplier networks.

"Ohio and the region is a good place to do business," Mr. Hill said. "All jobs will require more and more education and training, and the people who have this training and education will become more and more valuable."

The decision of companies such as Honda Motor Co. to locate research, development, and technical centers in Ohio and for Toyota Motor Corp. to do the same in Ann Arbor shows that the area possesses the educational and expertise required.

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