Friday, October 23, 2020

Leaning Into The Storm: Reshoring Manufacturing is Ohio’s Call to Duty

Ohioans couldn’t get N95 masks into our hospitals.  Business couldn’t buy PPE to stay open.  States fought to get testing kits.

It didn’t stop with medical supplies.

Try to buy a bicycle during COVID?  Good luck.

Many overseas-dependent products couldn’t be found on our shelves.  Some seemingly simple items couldn’t be found because of one tiny component in the supply chain wasn’t available in our country.

Reshoring, the restoring of manufacturing supply chains to our North American shores, is imperative!

It’s also bipartisan.  It’s clearly one of only a few issues upon which both sides of the aisle can agree—let’s bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

History shows us that issues can fade after an election though.  As time passes and the early stages of the COVID nightmare fades from our memories, we must not forget the lessons learned at the beginning of this crisis.  The critical need to restore manufacturing capability in our country is absolutely one of those lessons.  

The demand is there too.  A recent Bank of America survey found an astonishing 75% of global corporate respondents saw the need to bring their supply chains closer to home.  The Wall Street Journal recently called middle America “the new emerging market.”

I believe Ohio is well-positioned to lead the nation in emerging stronger on the other side of this crisis by seizing upon our strengths as a state for manufacturing.  We can answer the call in a crisis.  It will take an all-Ohio, determined effort.

The factors that work to grow manufacturing are here.  Energy, affordability, logistics, manufacturing culture, and, most of all, a strong workforce are Ohio’s strengths at a time when those strengths are needed by the nation. 

The U.S. still produces 20% of the World’s manufactured goods.  Ohio ranks third among states in manufacturing, and the sector remains the highest-paying and highest-impacting part of our Ohio economy. 

Manufacturing has kept our economy strong throughout the pandemic.  Governor Mike DeWine was right when he said to manufacturers, “You've kept our economy running in this challenging economic time."

Reshoring of manufacturing has JobsOhio’s full attention.  The non-profit economic development arm of Ohio is marketing our state as “an open and secure supply chain location.”  When other states are cash-strapped and worried about their economic development capabilities being eroded by shrinking state budgets, JobsOhio is just the opposite.  Investments are moving forward in the tens of millions for getting Ohio more ready to compete for advanced manufacturing job opportunities.

All development is local though.  While the state has greatly invested resources to get more sites and buildings ready to go in the marketplace and focused more resources on worker retraining for in-demand jobs, it’s going to take an exponential effort by our local communities to deliver ready-to-go sites and buildings in order to realize this opportunity.  Workforce readiness is key to being competitive too.

Our Port Authority industrial campus in Licking County has been a model.  Our manufacturers, all essential companies, stayed open and stayed safe.  Defense, energy, metals, testing labs, life sciences, and food production are all critical supply chain industries.  We opened two new buildings to accept more investment and funded training programs to provide a certified manufacturing workforce to meet a growing manufacturing workforce demand.

Industry proved it can respond and be ready.  Examples abound.  The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance quickly formed.  Nature’s One opened to make organic baby formula.  Gathered Foods unveiled a protein-rich, shelf stable plant-based seafood product.  IC3D printed faceshields with their fleet of 3D printers.  Buckeye Mask made cotton face masks.  The Ohio maker of Purel hand sanitizer, GOJO, expanded three times.

I’m bullish on manufacturing.  Reshoring is going to happen, and it’s coming to the American Heartland.

Let’s be ready to answer the call to boost our manufacturing capacity and permanently grow our economy.

I’m convinced our best opportunities are ahead.

While some may use the analogy “weather the storm” to describe their economic response, I tend to think Ohio is poised to “lean into the storm” in response to the stormy economic challenges posed by the pandemic.  It will be for naught, though, if it is not an inclusive, all-Ohio effort.

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