Erie County officials say tourism not the only job source

Manufacturing panel looks to get word out


SANDUSKY — In Erie County, tourism is big business. The county is home to Cedar Point, Kelley’s Island, water parks, hotels, and 35 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. In 2011, the economic impact from tourism was more than $1 billion.

But more than 16 percent of Erie County’s work force is still employed in manufacturing jobs. Economic development officials there want to make sure that fact isn’t forgotten.

“As an economic developer, you want to look at numbers, and if you have an industry that’s growing, you want to throw as much support as you can. But that doesn’t mean we need to neglect [other] industries, and the more diverse your economy is the more successful your community usually is,” said Peter Zaehringer, executive director of the Erie County Economic Development Corp.

Mr. Zaehringer recently summoned leaders from more than 20 companies as he convened the county’s first manufacturing industry roundtable.

A second meeting is expected before the end of the year, though a date hasn't been set.

He wants to identify challenges and opportunities within the industry.

One particular problem that has plagued many manufacturers has been finding good, skilled employees. Based on what officials heard at the round table, Erie County’s companies haven’t escaped that.

“We have to be more active to show people manufacturing is a good job,” Mr. Zaehringer said. “Many people think it’s dirty and smelly and oftentimes you’ll be surprised when you walk in new plants.”

Economic development officials want representatives from the companies to become manufacturing ambassadors of sorts.

“They’re going to have to help me reach out not just to unemployed skilled workers, but maybe high schoolers, who might consider a career in manufacturing,” Mr. Zaehringer said.

Though Erie County doesn’t have the concentrated manufacturing base of other northern Ohio counties such as Lucas and Lorain, it still has many of the same logistical benefits, while having a low cost of doing business, officials said.

The county’s largest manufacturing employer is Kyklos Bearing International in Sandusky, which employs more than 800 people, according to the Erie County Economic Development Corporation.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: or 419-724-6134.