But Tonelson says the trend in “new business” is actually fire sales of existing Ohio and Midwest businesses to foreign investors. Just last week, the acquisition by two Canadian firms of two Ashtabula County plastics companies – one in bankruptcy and one that was for sale – was announced by Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County.
“In a lot of Ohio and the Midwest, manufacturing executives are feeling that the U.S. Government has let them down to such a great extent, they are seriously thinking about getting out,” Tonelson says. “They don’t want to go through the aggravation of trying to succeed when their federal government is holding them back.”
Thanks to federal trade policies, many Ohio manufacturing jobs have gone overseas and south, resulting in a huge impact on per capita income. Tonelson says manufacturing has traditionally been “that sector that, in the history of America, allowed the person with average skills and education to enjoy the middle-class lifestyle.”
That’s an issue that hits close to home. Ashtabula County’s economy lost 134 jobs when Alphabet, formerly located in Orwell, moved its operations to Mexico and India. This year, Conneaut will have to deal with the closing of the General Electric plant and the loss of several dozen good-paying jobs there.
Tonelson feels both local and state economic development people have not come to grips with just how devastating these free-trade agreements have been to the American way of life and the economic condition of the nation.
“It’s clear to the regional leaders that something has gone wrong, but … that does not seem to have filtered down to the municipalities, county and local levels,” Tonelson says.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, northeast Ohio lost 45,481 manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2006. LaFayette says those numbers are deceiving, however, because manufacturing is actually a healthy industry in Ohio.