Ohio’s automotive strength drives economic growth: Bill Koehler, Team NEO – cleveland.com

Posted: Monday, February 01, 2016
Bill_Koehler.jpgBill Koehler 

Guest columnist Bill Koehler was chosen to lead the economic development organization, focused on creating jobs for Northeast Ohio, in June, 2015. As an executive with KeyBank for nearly 20 years, he was known as a solutions-oriented executive who helped corporate and middle market commercial clients grow while aligning his team to deliver results. At Team NEO, he puts his knowledge and expertise to work as he builds relationships that serve the best interests of Northeast Ohio as well as the companies seeking to grow and prosper in the region.

Ohio is an automotive powerhouse, with more than 600 businesses directly involved in the industry, producing 13 different models and delivering more than a million cars annually. The Northeast Ohio region, with our deep roots in manufacturing, is particularly strong in this area: Team NEO works across the region along with JobsOhio and our 18 county partners and chambers to help automotive companies and its suppliers grow and thrive in Northeast Ohio. We look for this sector to continue investing in our region and our people for decades to come.

Historically, manufacturing has been the backbone of our region’s success, with automotive manufacturing an integral part of that sector. GRP in overall manufacturing is projected to grow 43 percent by 2024, though production efficiencies required to remain competitive have caused a decline in employment. However, the automotive sector is expected to grow 19% by 2024, adding new jobs and invigorating the economy, locally and nationally.

The supply chain for the automotive sector remains strong, as industry partners enjoy easy access to raw material sources, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other suppliers and support services. Ohio is home to 24 OEMs and 26 Tier 1 suppliers with 500 or more employees. In fact, nearly 10 percent of all Tier 1 auto suppliers are located in Ohio, making us second only to Michigan in the U.S.

The breadth of expertise and resources available in Northeast Ohio provides a pipeline of innovations that instills confidence in automotive corporation decision-makers, who are choosing to continue investing in the region. General Motors, for example, announced plans in 2014 to invest $50 million in its Lordstown Complex for a new flexible trim shop and upgrades to the press room for the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan. You’ll recall that GM’s Lordstown plant has been producing the Chevrolet Cruze, now GM’s best-selling car, since 2010.

Ford made an even larger investment into its Engine Plant No. 1 in Brook Park, recently committing $200 million and adding 450 jobs to build new four-cylinder EcoBoost® engines. The automotive giant has also made a $168 million investment in its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, where, in 2015, 1,000 Ford workers took over production of medium-duty trucks previously produced at a plant in Mexico.

While Northeast Ohio has always had strong ties to America’s major automakers, it is also attracting investments from international companies. In October, Borgers USA Corp., a German-based Tier 1 automotive parts supplier, opened a new facility in Norwalk, Ohio. The company is investing $60 million in the new facility and could employ as many as 230 people over time.

This high level of commitment, coupled with our culture of innovation, knowledge, expertise and unwavering work ethic of our workforce, gives Northeast Ohio a significant advantage. As GM, Ford, Borgers and other companies continue to invest in our region and our people, we are confident that the automotive industry will continue to fuel our economic strength. Even as this segment leverages evolving advances in manufacturing automation, it continues to create new jobs for Northeast Ohio’s workers.

To learn more about what makes Northeast Ohio an automotive powerhouse, visit clevelandplusbusiness.com.

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