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Published: Saturday, 10/24/2009

Overhaul urged for Ohio's auto industry


COLUMBUS - Ohio must streamline regulation, promote research, and expand eligibility for existing tax credits if the state's struggling auto industry is to survive and thrive, a bipartisan state panel has concluded.

The six-member Joint Select Committee on the Impact of the Changing Automobile Industry, half of which represents northwest Ohio, spent its summer holding hearings. The first was held in August at the University of Toledo.

The final report is short on specifics but points to existing programs and economic development tools that Ohio might use more effectively to help auto manufacturers, parts suppliers, dealers, and consumers.

The report sent this week to Gov. Ted Strickland and other leaders called for an auto director within the state Department of Development and for more help for parts suppliers in diversifying into other industries.

The panel said it's time to talk about changing the state's auto dealership laws in reaction to decisions by General Motors and Chrysler to drop dealerships.

The industry represents roughly 16 percent of the state's manufacturing activity.

The House and Senate created the task force to look at auto manufacturers such as Chrysler, GM, Ford, and Honda, which have major plants in Ohio. The committee also heard from parts suppliers, dealers, and consumers who felt they were the losers during the federal bailouts and bankruptcies.

The committee was chaired by Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) and Rep. Matt Lundy (D., Avon), a former Toledo TV news anchor. Other members included Mr. Buehrer, Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Sylvania), Sen. Capri Cafaro (D., Hubbard), and Rep. Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown).

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