THERE IS a lot of talk about what’s next for the region, especially in light of the recent announcement about the Lordstown GM plant closure.
So while the union fights to keep the plant open — or to attract a new production line — there remains the question, “What’s next?” And that query is not just for Mahoning County, but this area, too.
The future is not just about technology and those who punch computer keys for a living.
And maybe attracting an Amazon fulfillment center — as the company explores replacing human employees with robots in its warehouses — is not the mecca it seems to be on the surface.
There is still a need for skilled employees — people who understand gears and production.
If you don’t believe us, look around at the help wanted signs at some of the local manufacturers here.
Finding someone who can work machinery, and who has the knowledge and skills to fix it, is not that easy. And if you have those skills, you might be in a better position in the future than you think.
There are new tools and machinery that work best when managed by a skilled laborer.
And there is a need for them. We used to call them “people who can work with their hands.”
And they are not just found on factory floors either.
There is a need for plumbers, electricians and mechanics. And they make good money, by the way. If you had to hire a good one this year, you know what we mean.
So we have a choice as a community. But, the good news is, we don’t think it has to be an either/or.
We can continue to seek e-commerce investment and to share with young entrepreneurs the advantage of coming to an area like this to get started. After all, this is where many dreams began and where small ideas became successful companies.
There are a lot of self-made people in this valley who understand what it takes to make it and who are willing to share their knowledge with the next generation of entrepreneurs.
We are a community that understands and supports that work ethic and has for generations.
And we should make that pitch. There is a future in that business model.
But why not add another layer to our repertoire?
Why not encourage and become one of the best areas for training “people who can work with their hands?”
We have the beginnings — some great trade schools and programs that give students who are perhaps looking for a different path the chance to find a career they love that can support a family, too.
So what if we took it up a notch?
What if we recruited and sought funding for even more technical training in our school districts and pushed for more programs that mixed people with ideas with people who can turn those dreams into products and services?
Wouldn’t that be a pretty successful mix?
There are always going to be cities swirling around the big shots. Amazon is the new Walmart — the next big thing that is changing how we shop and how we sell.
But Amazon will never be everything to everyone. It can’t be, and it shouldn’t be. And we better hope that it never is.
There are still small, thriving companies who are looking for the resources they need to grow.
And tops on that list are a sustainable workforce, and a great area for them to live and to raise their families.
Check, check and check.
Now, all we have to do is to look out of the box.
We won’t win in a battle to woo Amazon. But we just might be able to create a technology and manufacturing hub that benefits not only those with the ideas, but those with skills as well.
What if we became not just one of the top places for manufacturing and distributing as well as entrepreneurs, but also one of the best trainers of young talent?
What if we were the place you came to find the best technicians, machinists and skilled laborers?
Call it a seed of an idea. Call it a start.
But we like to think of it as a bold pitch for a new identity that keeps the best parts of an area that was built by the hands of generations of men and women who made things.
Intriguing, isn’t it?