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Erie County economy rebounds

Tom Jackson • May 14, 2014 at 7:06 PM

You may not realize it, but Erie County’s economy is going strong.

And you might not be able to guess where much of the growth is coming from.

That was the message Peter Zaehringer, executive director of the Erie County Economic Development Corp., brought to several dozen people attending ECEDC’s annual meeting in the convention center at Kalahari Resort.

After going over ECEDC’s economic development efforts, including its business retention program and RISE, the new program to incubate fledgling companies, Zaehringer turned his attention to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

He noted Erie County’s unemployment rate has gone from 11.5 percent in 2009 to 6.7 percent last month.

While it is true the country as a whole has been recovering from the Great Recession, local growth has outpaced the country’s. Since the recession, Erie County has added 4,600 jobs, a 13 percent growth in employment compared to 3.2 percent growth nationwide.

Perhaps surprisingly for those who think the area only generates tourism-related jobs, manufacturing has led the way in that job growth.

Zaehringer said Erie County added 1,200 manufacturing jobs from 2009 to 2014, including from companies such as Johns Manville, International Automotive Components and Sandusky International. Manufacturing employment went up 15.5 percent in Erie County from 2010 to 2012, compared to a national growth rate of 3.7 percent.

During that same time period, leisure and hospitality added 400 jobs while retail added 100 jobs. Local government, however, shed 600 jobs, Zaehringer said.

One of the organizations that helped lead the manufacturing resurgence was honored when Zaehringer handed out ECEDC’s awards.

Sandusky International, a division of MetalTek Int., was named the winner of the 2014 Business Excellence Award.

The company has expanded beyond its traditional service to the paper manufacturing industry into other markets, including offshore oil and gas development, and has gone from 97 to 164 jobs, with plans to add more, Zaehringer said.

News-2-You, a company that produces educational materials for special education students, won the Deal of the Year Award.

The Huron company moved to a new facility with triple the space and has added more than 10 jobs. It now has 35 employees, Zaehringer said.

Andy White, Huron’s city manager, won the Visionary Leadership Award, given for outstanding efforts in economic development.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, gave a keynote speech and said NASA Plum Brook Station is an important economic asset and Erie County has only scratched the surface of the asset’s potential.

She said government officials have worked to make available two waterlines from Lake Erie that deliver 34 million gallons a day. The ability to provide plenty of water to industries that need it and Ohio’s growing production of natural gas should be used to lure new companies to the area, Kaptur said.

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