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Despite losses, some Mahoning Valley firms are doing well


Published: Sat, February 10, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.


By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
Bill Turner has the perfect way to patch the hole in the local economy that was left by the loss of 4,700 good-paying auto jobs last year.
Too bad the administrator of Trumbull County One-Stop is joking.
"We need someone to come along with a nice magic wand," he said.
Short of a huge industrial complex suddenly appearing, there are no easy solutions to replace the jobs cut by General Motors Corp. and Delphi Corp., officials said.
Reid Dulberger, executive vice president of the Regional Chamber, cautioned that the worst may not be over.
Most of the GM and Delphi workers left with buyouts and early retirement incentives. At some point later this year, they will cut back on spending and begin relying on pensions or lower-paying jobs, he said.
That will hurt area retailers, restaurants and other service businesses.
Dulberger estimates that about 9,300 jobs will be cut by major employers and smaller ones hurt by the fallout.
In addition to Delphi and GM, he's including the 250 jobs that WCI Steel in Warren cut with buyouts and the job reductions expected at Forum Health.
While there is no magical solution to reverse the job losses, there is reason to hope.
Some are faring well
First, some area companies are doing quite well.
The Vindicator is highlighting these companies in today's Outlook 2007. This special section features the "Top 10 Companies On the Grow" as well as features on other successful companies in all sectors of the economy.
Here are two:
Exal, which produces high-end aluminum containers for Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and other international companies, has added 80 jobs in the past 18 months and is planning to build a third plant in Youngstown.
Turning Technologies, a Youngstown company that created an award-winning audience response system, has grown from a start-up technology venture to an 80-person firm with worldwide sales.
Dulberger said the Mahoning Valley sometimes overlooks such successes because large employers have dominated the economy for decades.
"They tend to obscure the younger, small- to- medium-sized firms that are flourishing today in a variety of fields and that, with continued success, will be major contributors to our economy in the years ahead," Dulberger said.
Other growth, too
Exal and Turning Technologies certainly aren't the only ones growing.
The chamber, which handles economic development for Mahoning and Trumbull counties, has assisted in creating 3,600 jobs and 162 million in new payroll since 2004. It started a five-year job creation and retention effort that year after raising 2.3 million to fund the program.
Dulberger said many of these companies sell to national markets so they will continue to grow, though the national growth rate is expected to be slower this year than it has been.
Rick Keyse, a principal at the Boardman-based accounting firm of Hill, Barth & amp; King, said his clients had a better year in 2006 than they had the previous few years.
Still, businesses are concerned by effect that the job losses at GM and Delphi will have on the local economy, he said.
"These people are not going to be at the furniture store buying furniture. They're not going to go out to dinner as much. It's that huge trickle-down effect," Keyse said.
Businesses aren't sure yet how they will be affected, he said.
Despite his estimate on lost jobs, Dulberger said no one can be sure how much of an effect there will be.
Much of that depends on how many of the people who retired or took the buyouts stay in the area, he said. Those that leave will create a "double negative" because the area is losing their jobs and their pension income or buyout payments, he said.
Jobs in the area
Dulberger noted, however, that there are jobs for people who want to stay in the area.
Two local job fairs last year attracted employers with 2,000 job openings. Some were entry-level jobs, while others required skills such as information technology or welding.
Chamber officials have found on visits to companies that some can't find qualified employees to fill openings, he said. Sometimes, it has hurt a company's opportunity to grow, he said.
MAGNET, a Cleveland-based group that supports manufacturing in the region, recently began an awareness campaign to encourage more people to enter manufacturing.
Dulberger said development officials have expected an increase in people entering manufacturing because it pays higher wages than other segments of the economy, but that hasn't happened.
Turner, of the One Stop employment agency, noted, however, that most employers that pay higher wages aren't hiring because they trying to stay efficient, Turner said.
"There are some jobs out there, but not great gobs of them that pay equivalent to what people were making at GM and Delphi," he said.
Some people who want higher-paying jobs will have to drive to a neighboring county or perhaps to a job several counties away, he said.
Dulberger said it will take well into next year before the effects of the auto cutbacks are known.
"What we have is a lot of uncertainty," he said.
shilling@vindy.com


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