Plant expansions help offset losses in major manufacturing

SANDUSKY Erie County held its own at the end of the third quarter of the year. Mark Litten, the executive director of
May 24, 2010



Erie County held its own at the end of the third quarter of the year.

Mark Litten, the executive director of the Greater Erie Marketing Group, said there were some losses in the manufacturing industry, but the county is gaining in other aspects.

Litten mentioned Vermilion-based Bettcher Industries Inc.'s plans to expand its operations and Tokyo-based Okamoto's plans to open the former Sandusky Athol plant, bringing with it about 150 jobs.

"If you look at other counties ... we're faring pretty well," he said. "Does that mean everything's perfect? No. (But) I think we have to look at the glass as half full, not half empty. Some good things have happened."

According to the Ohio Labor Market, Erie County's unemployment rate for the month of August was 4.9 percent, lower than the state average that month of 5.4 percent. Out of 45,800 people in the labor force, 2,300 are unemployed.

"The trend is that unemployment has been going down," Litten said.

The second and third quarter of the year has been steady for the real estate business. Both quarters' total number of homes sold were 184 homes each. The numbers increased from the first quarter when just 148 homes were sold in Erie County.

The number of temporary tags Erie County residents obtained for vehicles remained steady during the third quarter. The month of July saw the highest number -- 396 temporary tags. August and September's numbers were 302 and 323.

Bryan Kasper, vice president of Kasper Auto Group, said the third quarter results this year were a little less than last year.

Kasper attributed the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors as one reason numbers are a bit lower this quarter. Consumer confidence, he said, has not been too good -- especially with cars and homes.

"We're seeing our share with that," he said.

The first two quarters of the year were average compared to the previous year's results. About 1,000 cars were sold between the various Kasper dealerships. On average, about 100 more cars were sold during the third quarter, he said.

But he is optimistic about the last quarter of the year. Interest rates have dropped a half of a percent -- from 8.25 percent to 7.75 percent.

"We're looking forward to a really good fourth quarter," Kasper said.

Dawn Weinhardt, the office manager for the Sandusky-Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau, said the third quarter numbers for tourism haven't been turned in yet, but she predicts good results.

"The weather was cooperative," she said. "We'll see the real third quarter dollars sometime in November."

This year, the results for the month of August were below what came in last year.

In August, the lodging facilities paid $35,017.56. During the same time last year, the facilities paid $43,092. In July -- the bulk of the second quarter -- the visitor's bureau received $199,563.82.

Weinhardt said the results for the fourth quarter will depend on the winter weather. If the weather doesn't cooperate, it could decrease the amount of business the county sees.

"If everything goes as it has over the last few years, I would think we would have a strong holiday season like in past years," Weinhardt said.


For Erie County

Vehicle registration (temporary tags) for 2007:

July - 396

August - 302

September - 323

Homes sold (including condominiums) in 2007:

Third quarter (July 1 to Sept. 30): 184

Second quarter (April 1 to June 30): 184

First quarter (Jan. 1 to March 31): 148

Labor force August 2007:

Employment: 43,500

Unemployment: 2,300

August 2007 rate: 4.9

July 2007 rate: 5.4

August 2006: 4.9