These comments were delivered on March 28, 2023 by David Zak at the joint quarterly meeting of the Northwest District of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) and County Engineers Association of Ohio (CCEO). Zak is President & CEO of the Crawford Partnership for Education & Economic Development.
I want to take a few minutes to speak with you about the economic prowess of Northwest Ohio. Northwest Ohio has been touted as the #1 ranked region for economic development activity in the US (see RGP Advanced Manufacturing brochure). The Toledo and Lima metro areas are consistently ranked among the top ten in their size categories. Eleven of our 13 micropolitan counties ranked in the top 20% for economic development last year. The more than 100 projects of our counties last year alone were responsible for the creation of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of new investment and is a big reason the state of Ohio is doing so well overall.
This region has become a hotbed for economic development and growth. There are several reasons why – its labor force and work ethic, its transportation infrastructure, and its industrial strengths.
Outstanding Labor Force
First, the region was born out of hard work. For 11,000 years it was covered by the Great Black Swamp, a vast 1500 square mile wetland that was sometimes impassable and plagued by malaria. It was only in the second half of the 19th century and only after a tremendous amount of effort and 40 years was it able to be drained and turned into highly productive farmland. Today, three of the top five producing agricultural counties in the state are in northwest Ohio.
Today, the Northwest Ohio region has a population of 1.7 million people, with a labor force of more than 600,000 that possess that same work ethic. This region is home to dozens of higher education institutions, providing a skilled workforce for companies in the region. Additionally, the cost of living in this region is 15% lower than the US average, making it an attractive place to live and work.
Robust Transportation Infrastructure
Second, the transportation infrastructure in Northwest Ohio is robust, with three major interstates (I-75, I-80, and I-90) and several Class 1 rail lines. The region is also home to the largest general cargo port on the Great Lakes, with 15 terminals linked to global markets. Within a day’s drive, the region has access to 100 million people, and 8 million are within a 100-mile radius. Toledo’s airport has direct and connecting flights to 200 destinations, and the region has relatively easy access to Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Dayton airports, depending on where you are.
Real Industrial Strength
Third, Northwest Ohio possesses significant industrial strength in advanced manufacturing, automotive, energy, and food processing.
In Northwest Ohio, there are 500 manufacturing companies and an employment base of 130,000 in advanced manufacturing. The region has the lowest taxes in the Midwest for capital-intensive manufacturing. Over the last five years, it has seen 8800 new jobs and $4.7 billion in new investment.
The automotive industry is also thriving in Northwest Ohio, with $2.5 billion and 5500 new jobs created in recent years. Ohio is the #1 manufacturer of engines and transmissions, and 450,000 Jeep vehicles are produced annually in Toledo. The region has also become a host of Tier I, II, and III automotive suppliers, and is located just 45 miles from Detroit and Honda in Marysville.
Northwest Ohio has also made strides in the energy and food processing industries. The region is home to the largest solar manufacturing facility in the US and has a workforce of 13,000 in the energy industry. The food processing industry is strong as well, with 300 food processing companies and 16,000 employed in the industry.
Conclusion – It’s Undeniable
In conclusion, the economic prowess of Northwest Ohio is undeniable. The region’s history, population, and skilled workforce have made it an ideal location for businesses to thrive. The infrastructure and industrial clusters have attracted companies from around the world. It’s no wonder that this region has developed a reputation for economic prowess. I am excited to see what the future holds for Northwest Ohio and the growth and prosperity it will bring to the region. Thank you.