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Published: Tuesday, 11/27/2001

N.W. Ohio's factories do a turnaround


Northwest Ohio's manufacturing activity made a huge rebound last month into growth territory, although experts warn that it is too soon to tell whether the momentum will last.

After the local manufacturing index posted a dismal 22.9 percent in September, the lowest point in at least seven years, the October measurement released yesterday was at 54 percent. Manufacturing growth is signaled by a reading above 50 percent in the monthly index, which is prepared by Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership and the University of Toledo.

Before October, the local index had been below 50 percent for six months.

“It's too soon to conclude that it's the beginning of a trend,” said James Coons, chief economist for Huntington National Bank in Columbus. “But I think the size of the movement in this, coupled with the ... signs of improvement in the economy elsewhere, support very strongly that the economy has started to improve.”

Northwest Ohio's result for October, meanwhile, was above that for the nation, which was at 39.8 percent last month. The national index was at 47 percent in September.

The growth parternship expected the local index would rise last month, but not necessarily register in the growth range, said Eileen Granata, the agency's vice president.

While it's too early to say the local economy is in a growth mode, results of three key components - new orders, employment, production - are encouraging, Ms. Granata said. New orders were at 60.4 percent last month, up from 18.4 percent in September; production was at 60.9 percent, up from 11.5 percent the month before; and employment was 45.2 percent, up from 29.1 percent. Vendor deliveries also showed growth, while inventory of purchases and commodity prices showed decreased activity.

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