Ushering in a New Era in Ohio Manufacturing

By Senator Sherrod Brown

Today, when the sun rises in Youngstown, a third-shift worker driving home may well be sitting in a seat built in Warren. There is a pretty good chance that the brake system was manufactured in Findlay. An added safety feature – the folding air bag – may have been made in Dayton. The car engine and windshield glass were also probably manufactured in the Buckeye State. Ohio is ushering in a new era of auto manufacturing.

The first Chevy Cruze rolled off the assembly line in Northeast Ohio this past week. To build this new, fuel-efficient car, the GM plant in Lordstown added a third shift which created hundreds of new jobs in Ohio –a far cry from a year and a half ago when the company’s future was in doubt.

Ohio is home to more parts suppliers, materials industries, and technology companies that support America’s auto manufacturing base than almost any other state. More than 440,000 Ohio jobs directly or indirectly depend on the auto industry. It is the engine that drives American manufacturing and provides an entrance to the middle class.

A year and a half ago, the Obama Administration made the tough – and yes, unpopular – decision to save the auto industry from collapse. In the process, it helped prevent Ohio workers from losing their livelihood and helped maintain manufacturing jobs that keep our economy strong. While we still have a long way to go, the U.S. auto industry today enjoys the most job growth in a decade.

There were some naysayers who thought we should do nothing and let the U.S. auto industry crash and burn. If they had their way, we’d be looking at padlocked plant gates instead of watching new cars come off the line this week. Instead, it is a new day for the industry in Ohio.

Ohio workers – in small towns, rural areas, and big cities in 78 out of 88 counties – contribute to the U.S. automotive industry. The U.S. auto industry is one of four manufacturing industries that make up 56 percent of private sector research and development.

But as we continue to work our way toward economic recovery, one thing is clear: we’re not going back to business as usual. The Cruze – with its assembly in Lordstown and its components coming from across our state – shows that clean energy and fuel efficiency represent the future of our state’s manufacturing base.

Ohio is at the forefront of some impressive changes, quickly becoming a national hub for clean energy manufacturing. But this won’t happen without the right federal policies in place. I have been working to pass my Investment for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act – legislation that would create a revolving loan fund to help auto suppliers and other small- and mid-sized manufacturers retool their operations so they can participate in the clean energy supply chain. The IMPACT Act could create more than 52,000 jobs in our state while helping to revitalize Ohio’s manufacturing base.

We also need to ensure that our state’s most important asset – our skilled workforce – is prepared for the clean energy jobs of the 21st century. That’s why I am fighting for the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act. The SECTORS Act provides grants for sector partnerships among institutions of higher education, industry, organized labor, and workforce boards to stop the shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries that can open doors in Ohio.

And to keep moving forward, we need to make the business climate more fertile for development by creating policies that encourage research and development. When President Obama visited the Cleveland area, he called for a permanent extension of the research and development (R&D) tax credit. R&D tax credits incentivize investment in emerging manufacturing industries like clean energy development.

The R&D tax credit promotes innovation by encouraging the domestic production of new clean energy technologies. Many important clean energy projects are under development in our state. At Hocking College Energy Institute in Logan, students are learning about automotive hybrids and advanced energy fuel cells that will continue to reshape the automotive industry. CODA Automotive – an electric vehicle manufacturer – recently announced plans to build a battery manufacturing plant in Franklin County. Building a lithium-ion battery to fuel electric cars creates clean energy jobs right here in Ohio, staves off an unhealthy addiction to foreign oil, strengthens America’s economic stability, and enhances our national security. This progress means that the late shift worker does not have to pay gas prices that fluctuate at the whim of a foreign government.

President Obama made a decision that saved the U.S. auto industry from collapse. Ohio’s steelworkers, plastics producers, and stamping plant workers were able to keep their jobs. Ohio auto parts suppliers were able to hire more people and build capacity. We owe it to our children and we owe it to Ohio workers who come home from the late shift to create a climate that fosters Ohio innovation and creates Ohio jobs.

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