Ohio should revamp its taxes, workforce training, research and development and even mindset to rebuild industry and make manufacturing stronger, an Ohio legislative task force said in a new report.
The Ohio House created the 21st Century Manufacturing Task Force last year to find strategies to help re-industrialize the state, which has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years but still produces more than $73 billion in goods annually.
Manufacturing is a key part of Miami Valley’s economy, employing 100,258 in a 14-county region and providing $4.7 billion in payroll to workers at 2,400 companies.
Fifty gave testimony during hearings held at manufacturing plants in Canton, Perrysburg, Springfield, Circleville, Columbus, Cleveland, Sharonville. Top companies participated, including AK Steel, Owens-Illinois, Navistar, Pentaflex, Chrysler, Parker Hannifin Corporation, DuPont, Whirlpool, Ford Motor Company, International Paper, Timken Company, Worthington Industries, Lincoln Electric, and General Electric.
The bipartisan task force had five Republicans and five Democrats. The final report had unanimous approval by the members, said Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, who led the task force.
The top recommendations are:
• The Ohio Board of Regents and the Department of Education should develop initiatives to showcase career opportunities in manufacturing while Ohio’s education community and manufacturers work to customize co-ops, internships, and apprenticeships to address the individual needs of specific manufacturers.
• Encourage a uniform municipal tax policy to eliminate multiple and confusing tax filings, create tax incentives that promote capital investment, and create tax incentives to promote energy efficiency and research and development.
• Ohio should form a “triple-helix partnership” between higher education, state and local government, and manufacturing to produce an optimal ecosystem by building on industry clusters, such as aviation technology expertise in the Dayton area. Also, increase opportunities for Ohio’s colleges and universities to conduct manufacturing research.
• Encourage and support shale energy exploration as a way to supply low-cost energy for manufacturers and adopt market-driven strategies to expand renewable energy. Also, increase industrial recycling.
• Monitor federal trade activities and advocate for improvements that open Ohio products to be exported while pushing for measures to thwart unfair foreign competition that hurts manufacturers.
“Ohio has one of the strongest manufacturing sectors in the United States and the world,” the report said. “It is a large part of our state’s gross domestic product and stimulates growth in other sectors of our economy.
“Unfortunately, there has been a trend over the years by those outside manufacturing to undermine its importance and improperly characterize it as old and unexciting,” the report added. “The truth is quite the contrary, and an effort is needed to change its overall image.”
Ryan Augsburger of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association said, “We hope the report and the testimony by manufacturers will serve as springboard for reforms to drive Ohio’s manufacturing competitiveness.”
Earlier this year House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, announced the creation of the Manufacturing and Workforce Development Committee, similar to other standing committees for agriculture and public utilities. The committee will be chaired by Schuring. He said he aims now to turn the recommendations into legislation.
“For whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, manufacturing has not been showcased in Ohio as it once was,” Schuring said Friday. “Young people need to understand there is a very lucrative career in manufacturing. They can make a significant sum of money. It is a career that is stable and rewarding.”
He added: “We have to keep our manufacturers competitive so they can win not just in the national marketplace, but in the global marketplace. This is a road map for how we can take the strong manufacturing base we have in Ohio and make it better.”
Vice chairman of the task force was state Rep. Ross W. McGregor, R-Springfield, executive vice president of brake component manufacturer Pentaflex Inc. and one of the few in the manufacturing industry who serve as legislators.