Business leaders say region remains relevant

After a year when companies agreed to create 3,672 new jobs in the Dayton region, a panel at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting was confident in proclaiming that the region remains globally relevant.

“The world of innovation, when it comes to aerospace, begins here,” said retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley, who was part of a panel discussion at the coalition’s annual meeting Wednesday.

The meeting at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Center downtown drew a standing-room-only crowd in the center’s Wintergarden.

While companies committed to new payroll of $158.4 million and new capital investment of $290.5 million in the coalition’s 14-county region, they also agreed to retain 10,618 jobs, according to numbers the coalition presented.

The panel reflected on reasons companies take root in the area, and what local stakeholders can do to attract more.

“The U.S. Air Force is not here in the Dayton region because, hey, we like it here, although we do,” said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“It’s about the fact that the Dayton region and the academic institutions, the industrial institutions large and small, provide the goods and services that we need,” said Thompson, who leads an organization that, were it private, would be No. 5 on the Fortune 500 list.

The “great partnership” between military air power and Dayton goes back 100 years, to when the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army established a engineering presence at McCook Field, Thompson said.

It remains strong today. Thompson said the Air Force Research Lab, also based at Wright-Patterson, spent $420 million in the Dayton area in fiscal year 2016, a 43 percent improvement over the last few years.

He said further that some 30,000 people come “through the gates” every day at the base, which has a $4.3 billion economic impact on the region.

Moseley predicted that influence will only grow under President Trump.

“You’re going to see an increase in Department of Defense budgets,” he said, which he expects to have “an immediate impact on the region.”

Moseley predicted an increase in defense spending for three budget cycles, before the administration retreats into an “an election mode.”

“I think you’re going to see a bump,” Moseley said. “I think the bump will be significant.”

Trump, whom he called “a businessman at heart,” will expect immediate results from the Air Force and the rest of the military, he said.

“That takes us right back to the research labs … and to be honest, I don’t think that’s a bad way to go,” the former chief of staff said.

Ed Monser, president of manufacturer Emerson, which employs people in Dayton and Sidney, said the base’s presence combined with a strengthening downtown will serve as a magnet to others.

“Innovation is the right lever to pull,” he said.

“We’ve been successful because we’ve been able to attract and retain the talent we need to grow a business,” he added. “Once they come here (to the Miami Valley), they want to stay.”

At the meeting, Cho Tak Wong, chairman of automotive glass maker Fuyao, was honored with the coalition’s Maureen Patterson Regional Leader award. Jeff Liu, president of Fuyao Glass America — which employs some 2,000 people in Moraine — accepted the award on Cho’s behalf.

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