Friday, October 1, 2021

Celebrating a STEM Skills Workforce


“The facility’s most important element is people.”  These were the words of Air Force General Mark Bradley inaugurating the then-new Newark Air Force Base in 1962. 

Nearly sixty years later, Bradley’s words are truer than ever.

Twenty-five years ago, when Boeing, the Air Force, and Bionetics - DESG joined with the Port Authority in embarking on a new approach for which there was no roadmap, it was clear the STEM-skilled workforce would continue to be the most important element.

We know, and it should not be forgotten, that of all the reasons that were behind why the work of a closed Newark AFB couldn’t just march off to some other distant place, the most critical of those reasons was workforce.  Wise people like the Port Authority’s Wally Horton and base commander Colonel Joe Renaud then asked, “Would the skills to maintain one-of-a-kind equipment move with the equipment?”  Many rightly pondered, “Could the knowledge from thirty years of remanufacturing precision instruments be replaced elsewhere?”

We’ve never had to answer those hard questions because of a partnership that we celebrate today.

This is a place critical to our local economy but also critical to the national defense.  Availability of STEM skills has made the Central Ohio Aerospace & Technology Center (the renamed Newark AFB) able to continue to achieve unmatched precision and accuracy--the equivalent of a pencil point on a football field levels of accuracy. 

Key to maintaining the important work here was maintaining the important workforce skills here.

Fearing the local consequences of a national statistic that once indicated 80% of parents discouraged their kids from science and technology careers, the Port Authority has made STEM learning a major focal point of our development efforts.  Partnered with The Works and many others in the community, the Port Authority and our customers have made it our collective jobs to provide a dash of local relevance to the recipe for science, technology, engineering, and math skills to be a Licking County emphasis.

Today’s commemorative event isn’t just about looking back.  It’s about paying forward with attention to the future.

Strategically, the Port Authority is doubling down on STEM learning in Licking County.  The Port Authority’s Board has promised $1 million dollars over the next 20 years to a new STEM Scholarship.  The Aerospace Center workforce and Licking County students at COTC and OSU-Newark will be the beneficiaries of a scholarship being funded today.

STEM learning efforts with The Works started more than a dozen years ago.  There are people in the workforce today able to seize job opportunities in STEM careers as a result of those seeds planted long ago.  These national model efforts will continue with vigor.  It’s ingrained in Licking County—STEM skills matter.

An aim to broaden the reach is also being sparked.  In partnership with the YMCA’s All-for-One camp, the Port Authority aims to bring STEM learning to more members of our community.  Integrated summer camps which include special needs children being exposed to the uplifting promise of STEM skills needs to be part of a brighter future for our community.

Let’s all celebrate our STEM skills workforce.  The occasion of 25 years since October 1, 1996 when uncertainty and doubts about the future ruled the day has been replaced with much better sensations--ones of stability and growth. 

STEM learning and a STEM-skilled workforce are behind those sensations and will remain well into our future.


This development column is a regular column in The Advocate.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Newark Boosts Population, Rises in City Ranks


The 2020 U.S. Census numbers have been published now.

As expected, Newark has risen on the list of Ohio's most populated cities from 20th in 2010 to 18th with 2020 Census results.

Newark remains the second largest city in growing Central Ohio.  

Here's the updated 2020 Census rankings as compared to 2010.

With a 5% population gain, Newark has a 49,934 population.  That's quite an achievement.  World Population Review estimates have tended to show Newark having crossed the 50,000 population threshold. 

Some cities in the bottom quarter rank of Top 20 cities surprised the estimators in a good way.  Cuyahoga Falls, Middletown, and Cuyahoga Falls were seeing estimates with populations falling under 50,000 but found Census numbers holding them above that population number.

The last few years have aided Ohio's largest cities in population.  Overall, cities in the Top 20 did better than the earlier trends showed.  Ten of the 20 cities saw population gains versus 2010.  Estimates in 2016 had as few as three in that category.

Congratulations, Newark Mayor Jeff Hall on the news front.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Confessing a Manufacturing Bias


I confess.  I have a bias toward manufacturers. 

The reasons for my bias can be found in the numbers. 

Manufacturing provides the highest-paying jobs and is the economic core of our local and state tax base.  Plus, contrary to national media and conventional wisdom in some places around the country, there’s also growing evidence manufacturing can be a bigger part of our future in Ohio.

The story is supported by the numbers.

A July 2021 report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services showed Licking County added over 9,300 jobs in manufacturing since 2010.  That’s a more than 40% increase!  This same report shows the manufacturing sector remains the largest in Licking County and is growing wages. 

The Port Authority’s Aerospace Center kept that trend going with a 13% employment increase in 2020 and a highly competitive $77,000 average annual wage.  Owens Corning is preparing for a growing future with a massive new distribution facility under construction in proximity to their Newark plant. Boeing signed a lease extension through the end of the decade with options to 2043 to accommodate its growth plans. 

It’s everywhere.  Manufacturing-related expansions have already been announced for Amgen in New Albany, Lear in Hebron, and Transcendia in Union Township. 

Central Licking County hosts one of the largest concentrations of manufacturing in the state, making everything from missile guidance systems to baby formula and from pine tree extracts to linear motion equipment.  It’s home to an engineering- and technician-level employment mix too.  Covestro boats one-day turnaround of new products. Goodyear’s next generation tires germinate out of Hebron.

Statewide, the Ohio Manufacturing Association mirrors these facts.  OMA’s Manufacturing Counts report shows it is the largest industry sector with a 17% percentage of Ohio GDP and Ohio’s highest payroll at $43 billion annually.  The tax base of our state depends, as it has for decades, on a robust manufacturing base.  Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine keeps churning out major manufacturing announcements bringing job opportunities to all of Ohio, from the Lake to the River.  Led by suburban and exurban manufacturing growth, Ohio has ranked number one per capita among the states for project announcements two years in a row by Site Selection magazine.

JobsOhio provided incentive packages for retaining a new headquarters and research center for manufacturer Sherwin Williams in Cleveland and Peloton with plans to build a massive 2,000+ jobs new production facility in northwest Ohio.  PureCycle is investing $363 million at a new plastics operation slated for location between Ironton and Portsmouth on the Ohio River.

Internationally, the U.S. competes with China, Germany, and Japan for the world share of GDP.  World Trade Organization projections have shown that working-age population is declining in all these GDP competitor countries.  Couple these numbers with a pandemic-inspired eye opener of the need to source materials and supply chains closer to home, the U.S. is poised to grow manufacturing in places that are poised to accept it.  Ohio is ready.

The numbers add up to strong reasons to continue to have a bias toward manufacturers.


This development column is a monthly column in The Advocate.