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There’s always next fiscal year

Melissa Topey • Dec 29, 2013 at 10:30 AM

It was a good year for development in Erie County in 2013, but there are better years ahead, Erie County Economic Development Corp. executive director Peter Zaehringer said.

“There was a stagnant economy, but we are seeing a turnaround” Zaehringer said.

   He pointed out that Erie County did not have a closing of any large employer in 2013. “When I came on in 2010, one of my main goals was to stop the bleeding,” Zaehringer said. That year, layoffs plagued the county. U.S. Tsubaki employees went on strike in 2011. Two years later, U.S. Tsubaki is once again running at full capacity, he said. IAC has made good this year on the expansion and addition of 140 jobs it promised in 2012.    KBI, the former New Departure/ Delphi plant in Perkins Township, was able to negotiate an employee labor contract with the UAW and then a contract with General Motors for another year of manufacturing wheel bearings. With the layoffs of about 60 workers earlier this year, fears were prominent the factory might lose all General Motors contracts by September 2015. The new contract secured work at the facility through 2016.

   That was a breath of relief as KBI retirees, employees and the UAW fought to keep the plant from suffering the same fate as Janesville Acoustics, an auto industry-related manufacturer with a plant in Huron County. Company executives announced in August the Norwalk plant would close and 296 employees would no longer have jobs there by the end of 2014.

   Zaehringer said work by the Erie County Economic Development Corp. has established strong partnerships with state agencies such as TeamNEO and regional economic development agencies. It’s created a foundation for growth, he said.

   “Companies want to work with us” Zaehringer said.

   There were many factors working against growth this year.

   “The economy in 2013 had a very tough go of it,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics based in Pepper Pike.

   “The economy was hit by tax increases as well as government spending restraint. That’s called fiscal drag. The second major thing affecting the economy was the enormous amount of uncertainty. The easiest thing to do, whether you are a consumer or business, is nothing at all”

   At this time last year, no one knew what tax rates were going to be or if the European economy would implode. There was also the unknown of the health care overhaul and how it would impact businesses, Mayland said, as well as the government shutdown.

   “But you held your own” Mayland said, referring to the Register’s circulation area.

   He is optimistic about 2014.

   “This economy is a coiled spring ready to break out,” Mayland said. “Those issues of uncertainty we had, a lot of those have been resolved”

   The government is back working and a budget deal has been reached, he said.

   He forecasts economic growth in 2014 could reach 3 percent.

   Key industries Mayland expects to do well in the upcoming year are the auto, housing, energy and aerospace industries.

   “I see the pieces falling into place for better growth” Mayland said.

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