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Published: Friday, 5/25/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Manufacturing grows in Ohio

But new projects popping up in suburbs, rural locations

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Manufacturing in Ohio is growing, according to a recent state report, but in an interesting twist, more manufacturing projects are being built in suburbs or rural areas and away from the borders of the state's three biggest cities -- Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

According to a March report from the Ohio Department of Development, 261 manufacturing-related projects were situated in Ohio in 2011, and 247 of them, or 94.6 percent, were located outside of "the 3 Cs." In 2010, Ohio had 183 manufacturing projects across the state and 168, or 92 percent, were outside those three cities.

As president and chief executive officer of the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, Rick Platt of Licking County has watched the trend develop over the last four years but isn't surprised at the change.

"What's happened -- and it's not the case just in Ohio -- is our larger cities have become more entertainment, government, and service-oriented," Mr. Platt said. "Manufacturing has not died. It's always been around, and it still is. It's just moved out, moved out to the suburbs and rural areas," he added.

"It's not a bad thing. If they couldn't stay there [in the bigger cities], at least they didn't move away [to other states]," Mr. Platt said.

Some of the new projects are just outside the three biggest cities.

But according to the state report, manufacturers also are decreasing their presesence in the home counties of the three Cs. In 2010, a total of 35 manufacturing projects, or 19.1 percent, were in the combined counties of Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Franklin (Columbus), and Hamilton (Cincinnati). In 2011, the number of projects totaled 49, or 18.7 percent.

In fact, the report indicates that projects of all types -- manufacturing, R&D, distribution, headquarters, offices, and call centers -- are heading to areas outside the home counties of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

Mr. Platt said even though manufacturing projects are increasing, he still keeps hearing people suggest it is on the wane in Ohio. That could be related to the movement of manufacturing out of the three Cs into the suburbs and Ohio's rural areas, he said.

"A lot of people believe manufacturing is dead, and I think that's something even some legislators are ready to believe. I think that's a facet that much of the political clout in Ohio is still concentrated in the three Cs," Mr. Platt said. "We've got a little tunnel vision at the policy-making levels because it's too concentrated in a few places.

"The actual [manufacturing] numbers defy a little bit of the conventional wisdom," he said.

The Licking County official said Ohio wins by supporting the growth of manufacturing no matter where it occurs, and policy should be crafted to support its growth in suburbs and rural areas.

"It shouldn't matter if that manufacturing plant is in Newark, Ohio, or Derwent, Ohio," he said, adding that Derwent is a tiny village of 100 in southeast Ohio that is home to some new manufacturers.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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