Sunday, December 24, 2023

Yes, Vienna, There is a Santa Claus (And He Likes Ohio)


An open letter to my granddaughter for Christmas.

Yes, Vienna, there is a Santa Claus. I talked to him and, just like every year, there will be a toy, a tool, and a toothbrush in your stocking. You will have a couple nice gifts too. 

My conversation with Santa went beyond your stocking and what was to be under the tree.  I also talked to Santa about some economic gifts, and my wish for a bright future for you. Grandpa thinks that way. 

Manufacturing. Grandpa subscribes to the thinking that a strong economic base is found in industry that makes more than it would sell locally.  Manufacturing has been the beating heart of the Heart of It All.

When I was your age, the factories were strong and kids watched their parents go to work earning good pay. For much of my lifetime, though, a robust Ohio manufacturing scene was not the case.  However, it sure looks to me that your future sees a growing manufacturing base again. Ohio is leading the way among the states with onshoring of manufacturing jobs.

In your hometown, Behr Paint will open a new manufacturing facility next year.  Behr is creating jobs that would have gone overseas just a few years ago.  Boeing is at its highest level of employment in the last twenty years. 

We don’t have to drive far for more signs of growth. Ohio has seen its share of onshoring good news for a few years in a row now.  Intel’s plant should be more visible at some point next year.  Honda and LG Chem are already above ground near I-71 in Fayette County. 

Workforce. Grandpa also believes that a healthy economy requires population growth among the working age population. Ohio has some challenges there. My hope is that efforts to get homesick Ohioans back home and put out the welcome mat for new Ohioans is part of the mix of building our healthy state economy. 

My hope for your generation is that a good economy is a reason to stay in Ohio when you are working age. My generation scattered and created a long list of people homesick for their home state.  The cure for homesickness is coming home, or never leaving in the first place.

STEM Learning. My wish is for you to experience a country with a different outlook on women in STEM careers. Girls, at a younger age, talk about STEM careers, but statistics show more tend to stop talking about them as they get older.  I don’t get it. There’s no reason for women to only fill 25% of STEM jobs.  I hope you and your generation reverse this trend.

If your God-given talents call you towards a science and technology career, answer the call.  Opportunities are here, in Ohio.

Your hometown science museum, The Works, has had a STEM learning focus and so do many of the schools in your home county.  There’s a clear link between STEM learning options and STEM career opportunities.

It’s no surprise that companies that have chosen Ohio remark on the history of manufacturing, a manufacturing culture, and STEM learning infrastructure as key reasons to invest in the state. 

Santa didn’t leave these under the tree, but they are gifts Ohio enjoys nonetheless.

So, yes, Vienna, there is a Santa Claus.  And he likes Ohio.


This column is a regular development column for the Newark Advocate which also appeared in the Columbus Dispatch.

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