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.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

C-TEC Integrated Part of Family, Workplace, and Economy

One day, we got a call.
  “We have an opening in the preschool.”  As a dad of triplets, I said, “Call me when you have three!”

C-TEC called back.  The program leadership saw the value of giving two years’ worth of childcare students a chance to list triplets experience on their resumes.  My youngest kids got their first chance to get to know C-TEC at four years old.

It wasn’t the last.

My son would go on to graduate from the high school engineering program.  Proving the value of career technical training, he’s now employed in a laboratory and nearly ready to fly the proverbial nest.

C-TEC marks 50 years.  For many of those years, I can recite how C-TEC, and its variety of programming, has integrated into my family, workplace, and our local economy. 

Certifications and recertifications matter.  Over the years, the Port Authority has employed C-TEC grads.  Our operations coordinator, Bill Wright, got both a C-TEC high school diploma and, later on, a certification in networking through C-TEC.  Networking wasn’t even a thing when he graduated.  Now, it’s an essential credential. Our whole team has gotten office skills training.

Customized industry training matters.  One of our Port Authority Board members, Fred Paul, first came to work with C-TEC when he was in the local manufacturing industry.  Later, he switched teams to join the C-TEC customized training side as the training-industry connector.  That effort put C-TEC on the map locally, really nationally, in the all-important pre-employment training realm.  C-TEC’s approach has been a national model many have duplicated for decades.

That thing about being a national model can’t be overemphasized.  I tagged along a couple years ago when a national author, Joel Kotkin, was seeking to shine a spotlight on the people and places where career technical training was matching up with the growing manufacturing sector.  He specifically asked to go to C-TEC.   The school’s students and programs were the magnet for Kotkin’s City Journal article soon after.  Great story.

Career readiness matters. Air Force Colonel Vicki Reed, retired commander of AFMETCAL, one of our customers on the Port Authority campus, stayed in Licking County.  Now, she’s connecting the students with industry for work experiences that are rooted in keeping the talent right here after graduation.

Add unique experiences to the list of what matters.  Senator Sherrod Brown’s team lent his power to convene to encourage STEM and manufacturing camps reaching middle school kids. C-TEC stepped up years ago.  Last Summer, the middle schoolers got to tour a cleanroom and witness testing labs at work.  Most adults never get that sort of experience on their checklists.

Workforce impact matters. Workforce readiness translates to economic impact.   C-TEC has smoothed the path for our existing companies to upskill their existing workforce.  Every successful manufacturer in town can recite how C-TEC has helped fulfill their workforce needs.  Ariel Corporation, with a plant in Heath, has brought on a workforce from about every level of the working age with C-TEC at their side. Ariel’s location and expansion in Licking County is greatly owed to that workforce impact.

It matters to every company and every prospect.  In my role, I’m always pitching to potential job creators the capabilities of Licking County to deliver on a hard-to-deliver promise of providing a skilled workforce.  Companies need to find skills available now and into the future.  C-TEC is part of that pitch with all of these capabilities. 

I know my personal story is replicated in other families and workplaces too.

The C-TEC 50-year story is an all Licking County story.


This column was submitted for publication in the Newark Advocate supplement celebrating 50 years of C-TEC.

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.