Manufacturing alive, growing in Ohio


Amid the political bickering over economic plans, taxes and trade deals that we hear every election cycle come these standard refrains: “All the manufacturing jobs have gone to China and Mexico” and, “Nothing is made in America anymore.”

Those views are stated so often, and go unchecked so often, that they come to be accepted as factual.

Well, they are not.

It’s not to say that manufacturing in the United States, Ohio and Stark County don’t face challenges. Obviously, they do. Workers must adapt their skills to new technologies to compete in a global jobs market. Some companies aren’t surviving.

But to say manufacturing is dead here? Not quite yet.

The latest bit of positive news came Wednesday, when Ball Corp. celebrated a $35 million expansion at its plant on Warner Road SE in Canton. When Ball bought the plant 18 months ago, it employed 23 people. The workforce will top 120 once the expansion is complete and the company finishes installing and prepping machinery.

The 96,000-square-foot addition at the Warner Road plant will be used as a central hub for cutting and printing steel or aluminum sheets that will be turned into cans used for food, beverages and household products, Repository staff writer Edd Pritchard reported.

Ball also is investing $20 million at a Columbus facility to install equipment for cutting and printing on metal sheet. That project will add 80 jobs.

In all, Ball employs about 1,000 people around Ohio, Pritchard reported.

An impressive number, but only a tiny fraction of overall state employment in the manufacturing sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 687,000 Ohioans worked in manufacturing jobs in August, the most recent month for data. Yes, that’s still down from the figure of 794,000 a decade ago, but it’s also up significantly from a low of about 612,000 in August 2009 as the Great Recession cascaded over the national economy. Job recovery in the sector has been steadily upward, albeit sometimes slow, for the past seven years.

Manufacturing employment in the Canton-Massillon area has followed nearly the same pattern as the state and national trends, with our region — now employing about 28,000 in the sector — closer statistically than Ohio as a whole in fully recovering the manufacturing jobs lost between 2007 and 2009, according to BLS figures.

As part of the expansion, Ball received a tax credit from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority for job creation and a 10-year, 75 percent real estate property tax exemption from the city of Canton as part of an enterprise zone agreement.

That’s the kind of joint effort needed to keep companies flourishing in U.S. markets.

It’s no wonder Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting attracted a “who’s who” of political leaders — from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to U.S. Reps. Jim Renacci and Bob Gibbs, to state Sen. Scott Oelslager, state Rep. Stephen Slesnick and Canton Mayor Thomas Bernabei. They and Ball Corp. officials spoke about the cooperation that spread across many entities, and they celebrated the nearly 100 new jobs coming to Canton.

We celebrate with them, knowing that manufacturing is alive — and growing — in Ohio.

— The Canton Repository

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