Sunday, August 20, 2023

What Do Organic Baby Formula and Latex Paint Have in Common? Made in Licking County


Bobbie, an organic infant formula company, recently acquired a Licking County manufacturing plant it called “the most innovative infant formula manufacturing facility in the U.S.”  Nature’s One, Bobbie’s July acquisition target, has been in Licking County for over three years and ramped up production during the baby formula crisis.  They are little known locally.

Licking County hosts manufacturers bringing a diverse array of products to the International stage.  Companies are focused on selling products to the world, and they have found it hard to grab the local spotlight.

The story of diverse manufacturing in Licking County is, often, a hidden story.  For the sake of inspiring a future generation to pursue the broad job opportunities that are here, we all benefit from knowing more about what’s right here in our backyards.

For almost ten years now, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s product development center has been the darling of the tire world.  Yet, few know that development of new tire innovations take place in Hebron.  A few parents and students may remember, Goodyear led a STEM competition at The Works one year to tell their story.

Screen Machine has been making giant, rock crushing machines in Etna from design to road ready for some time.  Their product has done its job on every continent but for, maybe, Antarctica. 

Neurxstem is conducting research to develop a test diagnosing brain tissue reactions.  Who knew? Only after Congressman Balderson visited and the generated front page story in The Advocate caught a Heath mom’s attention, did a local guy find out that his skills were needed in his hometown.                             

Where synthetic food additives are discouraged, as in the European Union, the pine tree extract manufactured at Arboris in Newark is in great demand as a cholesterol-lowering ingredient in many foods.  Soy crisps, an ingredient to give crunch and protein to popular protein bars, come out of the GB Food factory in Heath.  GB is a European-Asian joint venture that first set up their shingle in the U.S. in 2016.  Gathered Foods followed GB in 2017 and makes international headlines for their plant-based seafood products.  Locally known?  Not so much.

It’s also little known, but a fact that the first silicon products to come out of Licking County won’t be from Intel.  Momentive Performance manufactures silicon quartz tubing and crucibles consumed in making semiconductors and photovoltaic solar panels.  They’ve been in Union Township for decades.

Kaiser’s hot rolled aluminum line, Boeing’s missile guidance systems unit, the Air Force’s metrology labs, Owens Corning’s research campus, and Covestro’s product development center are just a few more of the unique-to-the-world capabilities right here in Licking County.

Soon, Behr Paint will begin manufacturing latex paint in their new facility in Heath.  Behr’s television commercials make the brand known around the U.S., but the large, new facility has gone quietly forward over the last two years practically unnoticed.  I’m hopeful Behr’s good news tale won’t get painted over when they open production early next year.

It’s the diversity of manufacturing that is one of the greatest strengths of our local economy, labor market, and tax base in Licking County.  This strength is to be celebrated!


This column is a regular development column for The Newark Advocate.


Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Case For Thornwood Corridor Improvements



The Cherry Valley Bridge was shut down for more than half a year, and the reverberations were felt across several communities.  Those among us who weren’t sure we needed a new bridge, got their minds changed quickly.

The case for improvements to the Thornwood Drive Corridor are more than relieving the pain from a bridge shut down, though. 

Consider these points:


We Need to Get Prepared for Future Growth

Manufacturing is coming back to our shores and Licking County is a microcosm of this reshoring.  Our Port Authority campus in the heart of the Thornwood Corridor has seen a 40% increase in jobs in the last three years.

Intel benefits.  Traffic engineers tout the fact that the shortest distance and time of travel between Intel and points east, is the Thornwood Corridor.  Improvements will only make that through-flow of traffic for Intel suppliers stronger.  It’s notable that the first new Intel supplier in Ohio is located in a building in the Thornwood Corridor.

Getting the improvements to the Thornwood Corridor moving are critical to continuing to capitalize on the economic benefits of reshoring. 


Uncle Sam Has a Role

When jobs come back to our country, it’s the federal government that has the most to gain in tax growth.  Reshored jobs increase the U.S. tax base and manufacturing jobs strengthen the heart of our national economy.

So, it’s totally appropriate that Congressman Troy Balderson and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown were successful in getting $4 million appropriated for Newark in the recent federal budget.  These efforts are a big help to fund the next big Thornwood Corridor project.

When the final state budget comes out, we’ll be hopeful that additional state funding has been secured which will allow the corridor to advance sooner rather than later.

Local funding can close the gap.  The Port Authority has volunteered to help.


We Need to Answer Existing Companies’ Growth Demands

Though the news of 70 diverse companies making investments and creating jobs over decades doesn’t get the attention one big announcement can, the impact is no less vital at local, state, and national levels.

A recent look at the five industrial parks in the Corridor makes the case for devoting attention to getting the Thornwood Corridor advanced:

·       There are 1,600 acres with more than 500 acres ready to go for future, manufacturing-oriented development.

·        Manufacturing brings the highest-paying jobs and the combined $385 million payroll stands out.

·         Already, there are over 8,500 people employed in the Corridor with more jobs on the way.

·        The Corridor’s companies combine to over 10 million square feet of mostly manufacturing space.  It’s the largest manufacturing corridor in Central Ohio with a diverse mix of companies.

If population matters, we have that too.  Consider the fact that, if Granville, Newark, Heath, and Hebron were combined, they would rank as the seventh-largest City in Ohio.

Join us.  Supporters in the Corridor aren’t asking for a four-lane, divided highway.  We are asking for a safer and sensible route for our people and our freight to travel.  The case is clear.


This column is a regular development column for the Newark Advocate.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Get Used To Growth, Ohio

Get used to growth, Ohio.

Whether it’s the two biggest capital investment announcements in Ohio history in 2022 or the very real statewide manufacturing resurgence, Ohio is on a trajectory for growth and opportunity which most Ohioans haven’t seen in our lifetimes.  Governor Mike DeWine is right to say, “It’s Ohio’s time.” 

Though the idea of getting used to growth could mean different things in different parts of our state, there’s clearly one thing in common:  Ohio is poised to grow in a way that hasn’t been experienced for generations. 

Manufacturing never truly left, but certainly the narrative about its importance to Ohio and the nation is back in a way that we can expect will continue.  “We are amidst a once-in-a-generation shift of global manufacturing footprints, and 2023 should continue to be a year of opportunity for manufacturers in the United States,” predicted national site consultant Michelle Comerford in January.  Axios reported that U.S. manufacturing growth at the end of 2022 outpaced the rest of the planet year-over-year, and the report added the comment, “for the first time in recent memory.” 

Ohio is the third largest manufacturing state.  Per capita, Ohio outpaces the other two. Therefore, national manufacturing growth equals Ohio manufacturing growth. 

Big cranes and big earth movers are the early signs of growth.  It’s great to see cranes are arriving and concrete is waiting to get poured at Intel’s Ohio fabs in Jersey Township in Licking County right now.  A drive by on Interstate 71 through Jefferson Township in Fayette County shows work has already begun for Honda as well.  

Jobs are the next sign.  Manufacturing employment in Ohio is very nearly back to pre-pandemic levels even before new hiring has started for the announced projects.  At least a quarter of Ohio’s counties are within commuting distance of the Intel and Honda sites. 

Manufacturing brings wider growth opportunities too. Some of the best jobs and tax base growth are with suppliers.  Intel already finds suppliers in 22 of Ohio’s 88 counties as they look to find more vendors in the state.  Honda boasts a supplier presence in 55 Ohio counties with the potential to widen. 

Getting ready for growth also means preparing to welcome back homesick Ohioans and new Ohioans.  Put out the welcome mat.  Over the years, Ohioans have been dispersed.  Job opportunities are the pathway back home.  

It’s already happening.  For two of the last three years, U-Haul has ranked Ohio in the top 10 states for growth when it looked at its rental truck trends as an indicator.  Returning to Ohio is a one-way U-Haul trip.

To me, a guy who grew up in a steel town that doesn’t make steel anymore, growth equates to opportunity.  I’m optimistic that my kids’ and my grandkid’s future opportunities to make a living in Ohio are better than they were when I grew up.  I am lucky to know Ohioans in all corners of our great state, and I’m certain that sort of parental aspiration is a statewide sensation.

 It will be great to get used to growth commonplace in Ohio.


This column is a regular development column for the Newark Advocate also submitted to The Columbus Dispatch.