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U.S. CONGRESSMAN BILL JOHNSON Proudly Representing Eastern and Southeastern Ohio

Opinion Pieces

Ohio Valley: Poised to be Epicenter of American Manufacturing Resurgence

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Marietta, October 17, 2016 | comments
The Ohio Valley is poised to be the epicenter of a great resurgence in American manufacturing.
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Published October 17, 2016
By Rep. Bill Johnson

The Ohio Valley is poised to be the epicenter of a great resurgence in American manufacturing.

When the proposed ethane cracker plant in Belmont County comes to fruition, it will play a major role in this resurgence of manufacturing – and it will be unlike anything we’ve seen here in decades. Numerous companies are already taking a look at the surrounding area to potentially set up plastics, textiles, and other manufacturing industries.

These activities are proof positive that Eastern Ohio is seeing firsthand the positive impacts from the oil and gas development going on in our region. In fact, the unemployment rate in many counties I represent has been cut in half – and, the job gains within the energy industry are a major driver.

In order to take full advantage of this opportunity we must have a ready and trained workforce prepared to fill these new jobs.  Fortunately for us, Eastern and Southeastern Ohio is blessed with an abundance of high-quality trade schools and community colleges with programs already in place to train workers to meet these emerging opportunities. I’ve visited many of these schools, and I always come away impressed with their programs.  It’s hard not to – especially when I hear stories of how many students have good-paying jobs lined up before they even graduate.

Some of our high school students may choose not to go on to college; and, that’s more than ok. At a time when the cost of attending traditional four-year institutions continues to soar, leaving many young people saddled with a burdensome load of debt and few job prospects, there are other viable options in the manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, there has been a stigma associated with vocational or trade schools. It isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t accurate.  

A recent study put the cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree at about $127,000 compared to the cost of the average vocational degree at less than $30,000.   Most vocational and trade schools also offer the advantage of on-the-job training while in school.  And, their students, in many cases, land good-paying jobs upon graduation.  Another great advantage of attending a technical trade school is that most of the jobs are always going to be in demand – the job security is real, and there is a growing demand for high-precision skills.

To help inform young people in our region about career opportunities in manufacturing, I will be hosting my “Manufacturing Your Future” forum at Belmont College in St. Clairsville on October 20th. This event will bring together high school students, educators, manufacturing professionals, and other industry experts to showcase the potential career and training opportunities in the manufacturing field.

College is a good option for many of our young people, but for those who have other interests or plans, there are real alternatives that can lead to good-paying careers. My forum on October 20th will help inform our young people about how to pursue these opportunities.

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