Traditional industry still has place in Ohio

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It’s no secret that our economic landscape is changing. Globalization has put new pressure on Ohio businesses to compete with companies from across the world to develop the newest, most innovative products, while many Ohio workers have had to learn new skills to fill the jobs of the future.

While it is important that we recognize this economic transition and work to position the state, its businesses and our workforce for long-term success, we should be careful not to write-off the industries that got us here —industries such as coal, automobiles and agriculture that may be struggling to find a place in the 21st century economy but, through the years, have helped shape our communities and traditions, while making Ohio a great place to live.

For instance, coal has long been one of our region’s most abundant natural resources and continues to be an integral part of our state’s economy. Unfortunately, the burning of coal has been linked to global warming and other environmental concerns, sparking intense debate about its continued use and leading many to call for quicker development of cleaner, renewable energy sources.

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In September, I invited state and local officials, as well as coal industry representatives to participate in the Ohio Coal Summit, which coincided with the annual Wellston Coal Festival. The event focused on the state of Ohio coal and its role in our energy future. I was impressed to see how far along we are in developing clean coal technologies, which can cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 80 percent compared to conventional methods. It is this type of innovation that can help coal and other struggling industries not only survive in a global economy, but see growth and success for years to come.

The auto industry has also been a major player in

Ohio’s economic success for decades. However, its recent struggles to stay afloat have been well-documented. We have seen auto plants shut down across the state and hundreds of jobs cut in recent years, in cities like Cleveland, Akron and Toledo.

Looking at this unfortunate situation, many would think that trying to resurrect the auto industry in Ohio is hopeless, but we should not discount its economic value just yet.

Just like coal, we have seen automakers unveil new technologies and innovative products to help them stand-out above their competition and compete in today’s tough economic climate.

Not to mention, successful foreign companies like Honda have been a staple in Ohio for years, creating hundreds of jobs and providing a tremendous economic boost not only to the areas that house their auto production plants, but in places like the 17th Senate District, which is home to several auto suppliers that work with Honda and other automakers.

Whether we like it or not, our world is changing, and with it, traditional industries that were once prominent in Ohio now must develop a new framework for success. The coal industry, automakers and others have already begun to utilize 21st century technologies to develop innovative ideas and create new and exciting products. It is steps like this that will keep these important industries going in Ohio and contributing to our economy for years to come.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District.