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Candidates differ on views about free trade

Published: Sat, October 9, 2010 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick



Bill Johnson, the Republican candidate in the 6th Congressional District race, says free trade for the United States “only works” with countries that have “similar economic concepts, goals and capabilities,” such as Great Britain and Canada.

But Johnson’s company — Stoneridge Inc., in which he says he’s a member of its “executive leadership team” managing a “multimillion- dollar departmental bud-get” — closed a plant in Sarasota, Fla., while expanding its presence in Mexico, China and Estonia.

Johnson said he is the Warren-based company’s chief information officer and “not chief location scout so my goal is to ensure that manufacturing centers chosen by the company are equipped to serve our customers.”

But Democrats say Johnson is benefiting financially from his company’s decision to expand to the other countries.

“Corporate executive Bill Johnson personally profited from his company shipping jobs to Mexico, China and Estonia, while 300 American workers were fired,” said Ryan Rudominer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Bill Johnson puts his profits from outsourcing ahead of American jobs, and that’s wrong for Ohio.”

Johnson earned $257,794 last year in salary from Stoneridge and owns between $50,001 and $100,000 of the company’s stock, according to his financial disclosure statement with the Federal Election Commission.

Stoneridge, a designer and manufacturer of electrical systems for vehicles, closed a plant in Sarasota in 2008, laying off 300 workers.

The Bradenton Herald newspaper quoted George E. Strickler, Stoneridge’s executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, in November 2007 as saying: “With our China operation ramping up and our restructuring initiatives, we expect our sales from low-cost locations to grow as we relocate labor-intensive manufacturing over time.”

He mentioned expanding in Mexico, Estonia and China, according to the article.

Johnson said Stoneridge is a global company with more than 30 locations.

“Ohio-manufactured goods are exported to China as part of our operations,” he said. “Competing in the global economy has been good for Ohio workers. Despite a tough economy and consolidation, the company has actually created jobs right here in Ohio since my start” in 2006.

Johnson is challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, D-6th, in the November general election.

Wilson plans to start airing “a negative ad next week” about Johnson, said Kristina Paolina, Wilson’s campaign treasurer.

“As someone who has spent my whole life here, I have seen the devastation that outsourcing has caused in this area, and that’s why I have voted to close loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas,” Wilson said. “It’s also why I am trying to repeal NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement]. These issues are key to Ohio’s economic future, and it’s pretty obvious that Bill Johnson doesn’t understand that.”

Johnson says it is Wilson who is out of touch.

“In Congress, I’ll work hard to protect Ohio workers from unfair trade, and I’ll also work to reverse the skyrocketing unemployment experienced since Charlie Wilson took office,” he said.


1Heartland(38 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Johnson is one more GOP hypocrite selling the USA out. What a joke.

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2Jerry(742 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

The views expressed by Charlie Wilson in this article seem to indicate that Charlie buys in to the philosophy of class envy and tearing down success. I understand that we need to know who Bill Johnson works for and what he does, if he is running for public office; but why exactly did we need to publish his personal salary from a private company, and his investment holdings with his employer?

I would like to express the two major points I took away from this article:

1. Bill Johnson has significant experience with the operation of a major manufacturing company. He knows how to make products, create jobs, and make the tough decisions that go along with running a business.
2. Charlie Wilson thinks this is a bad thing.

I would also like to make a point about my personal experience with Bill Johnson’s company, Stoneridge.

I am an Engineering Manager and Project Manager for a small-to-mid-sized manufacturing company in located in Canton. Without delving into confidential details, I am currently working on development of a control system for a major US manufacturer, and Stoneridge’s Hi-Stat Division in Lexington, Ohio, is assisting by supplying several of the more complex components (and they are doing a fine job of support thus far). If all goes as we plan and hope, this will evolve into several millions of dollars of annual business for my company and for Hi-Stat, and associated jobs in Canton and Lexington. I have nothing but respect for Stoneridge Hi-Stat, and am grateful for their expert assistance.

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3cambridge(3612 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

The republicans created millions of jobs during the Bush/Cheney administration. The only problem is that most of them were in China and India.

It's hard to blame the companies when the republicans gave them tax breaks to move jobs out of the United States.

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4peacelover(823 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Heartland, you summed it up nicely.

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5iBuck(231 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Out-sourcing and off-shoring are not synonymous. Out-sourcing can be totally within the USA, even just within Ohio. Off-shoring or off-shore out-sourcing is to other countries. (Sometimes, a few people separate far-shore and near-shore off-shoring. Near-shore off-shoring would be for a US firm to contract with a firm in Canada or Mexico; far-shore would be to off-shore to Red China or whatever.)

"Jerry's" remark provides an example of domestic out-sourcing from his company to Stoneridge in Ohio... which then off-shores some of the work to Mexico, Estonia and Red China. Reminds me of the hospital that contracted out some of their radiology and records work to a US firm, which sub-contracted it to India, where the disgruntled, unpaid worker tried to blackmail them with threats of disclosing this personal private info that should never have been let out of the hospital, let alone to the other side of the world.

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