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September 20, 2019

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New Report Underscores Why Manufacturing is Still Critical to NE Ohio Economy

At the epicenter of what was once pejoratively referred to as the "rust belt," Northeast Ohio supports an increasingly vibrant economy in which manufacturing plays a critical role. Consider that with over 275,000 positions, manufacturing alone accounts for 14% of the region's jobs and 40% of its GDP.

Those are just two of the findings in the 2019 State of Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Report [1], released recently by MAGNET[2] - the area's manufacturing advocacy and support group. This third annual report is based on findings from a survey of over 381 CEOs and management-level respondents across the region's 18 county area and represents roughly 67,000 Northeast Ohio manufacturing workers.

Contrary to the old 1980s "rust belt" image of failing companies and shrinking workforces, 69% of the companies reported revenue growth in 2018 (only 8% saw a decline). Further, most expect their own companies to grow this year while manufacturers continue focusing on product and process improvement. The launching of new products and lean operations, in particular, were reportedly driving increases in company revenue. 

Ninety-two percent of companies reported that their workforce grew or stayed the same last year, and one-fifth increased their workforce by more than 10%. Attracting skilled workers is still a challenge. Respondents currently had over 2,000 open positions. While automation is being used to augment worker productivity, it is not replacing jobs. Only 5% had done so.

Knowing that the major shift in workforce skills needed for manufacturing requires a change in mindsets, Stark leaders are collaborating to find solutions. Barb Bennett - a Canton Regional Chamber Director partnering with Stark Economic Development Board and MAGNET[3] - is helping build a Stark manufacturing network. The goal is to determine strategies for communicating needs and opportunities as well as building stronger connections with talent developers.

Concurrently, the Strengthening Stark Talent Development committee is designing ways to educate and engage students, parents and other adults about vibrant manufacturing careers in our area. Strategies include open houses; tours of manufacturing sites for students, parents and community members to see the new high tech environment first-hand; videos of high tech positions; career presentations at middle and high school classrooms; job shadowing and other work-based experiences.

[2] For more on MAGNET, its mission and vision, see
[3] Dr. Para Jones, President of Stark State College and Carolee Vanicek, Director at the Timken Company, both serve on the MAGNET Board.
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The Stark Education Partnership - a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Stark County, Ohio -  is a catalyst, engaging and collaborating with education, business, civic and community stakeholders to drive sustainable improvement and innovation to provide all students with education and career success.  

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