For the past six months, we've heard almost on a daily basis of huge multi-national corporations downsizing thousands of employees around the country. Often, twe Mid-Ohio Valleyans often heard that "our area tends to be immune" from downtowns that affect other parts of the U.S. economy.
Well, I guess we can throw that theory out the Simonton window! Economic distress is now racing like wildfire through the Mid-Ohio Valley. The souls affected by downsizings at Century Aluminum, Alcan and Simonton clogged our newscasts and web channel just within the span of one week. And <b><i>at least</i></b> two other area Mid-Ohio companies that we still can't confirm are preparing for layoffs within the next week or so.
All of the carefully rehearsed soundbites and polished press releases explaining the reasons behind layoffs are of little comfort to those who've poured their life blood into these companies.
Which leads to the obvious questions: What the heck is going on? Why is the Mid-Ohio Valley so seemingly unattractive to existing and prospective business?
The time for serious introspection has arrived.
We have a workforce with a strong work-ethic. We have a low cost of living. We've had in place for years the infrastructure to bring ultra-high speed internet (T1 lines and satellite links) to most any business location in our midst. We have good railroad access. Our trucking transportation industry is extremely close to major interstate systems. We aren't plagued by unending snow that businesses in the north struggle with. We aren't under the constant threat of hurricanes and tornadoes that businesses in the deep south and the plain states contend with. We also have a local airport that has the potential to handle business (and is a PLEASURE to fly in and out of!).
Perhaps we should examining or reexamining the original motives that led to mega-employers locating here - like DuPont, Coldwater Creek, General Electric and the Bureau of the Public Debt (besides Parkersburg being an unlikely nuclear attack from the Soviets). What did the decision-makers see in the Mid-Ohio Valley that other potential major employees don't see - or perhaps see, and don't like?
Hino certainly saw something good - and kudos to those who worked so hard to prove to Hino that this area was a great place for its facility.
The Area Roundtable, the Wood County Development Authority, the Washington County Council on Economic Development and many other agencies and individuals - many of whom working behind the scene - have all played parts in attracting business to our area. Their efforts are tireless and they, of all people, know the time-consuming and often frustrating nature of securing new businesses.
Perhaps we need to shelve ideas for skateboard parks, more bike paths and upgrades to the MOVTA bus fleet and instead pour funding into efforts to recruit industries that are struggling <b><i>RIGHT NOW</i></b>under the crushing burdens of doing business in states like California and New York! Rather than further decimating Ravenswood's economy, perhaps Montreal-based Rio Tinto Alcan should consolidate its other operations - and save millions annually - by moving <b>HERE!</b>
How much you wanna bet that Mid-Ohio Valley workers could fully staff and operate a Ford, GM or Chrysler assembly plant more efficiently and, in the process, do its small part in helping turn around an ailing U.S. auto industry?
What a joy it would be for WTAP to be able to report some positive local economic news for a change! After all, we live here, too.