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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal

    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    Seeing Northeast Ohio economics clearly 

    If Ohio is a swing state, it is even more a split state. Northeast Ohio lost 800 jobs Wednesday when Italian eyewear maker Luxottica Group made the logical business decision to consolidate its newly acquired Cole National Corp., with its operation in suburban Cincinnati. So it's a push, right? Northeast Ohio's loss is Southwest Ohio's gain. Not quite.

    Jobs will be lost in this transition and translation. (Ask Ms. Ohioblog and other former Hoover Co. employees about Maytag Corp.'s move of most Hoover headquarters fuctions to Newton, Iowa, or the Shaker Heights employees at OfficeMax Inc. who were taken over by Boise Cascade Corp.) Some jobs will be redundant and unnecessary. Some won't fit the Luxottica corporate structure. Some Cole workers won't want to or cannot move to Cincinnati.

    In any case, the move further weakens the Northeast Ohio economy, and the city of Twinsburg must determine how to adjust to the loss of the company that paid its second highest amount of payroll taxes ($850,000 annually). Having the attitude of 85-year-old kathryn Wolfsberger, whose Wolfsberger Grille at South Main Street and Miller Avenue an Akron institution since 1917 that coincidently just closed its doors, would be helpful. She told Akron Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels that, as he puts it, ``This corner has changed; the world has changed.''

    Wolfsberger's was a rubber shop bar. Workers would pour out of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. factories on South Main Street and line up at the bar three-men deep. Clarke Gable, legend has it, drank here. Then the rubber shops closed and for Wolfberger's last call was only a matter of when. Akron has proved its resiliency. So has Twinsburg. When a similar moment came in 1997 after CVS of Woonsocket, R.I., bought Twinsburg's Revco, Cole moved into the 179,000-square-foot facilitiy on Enterprise Parkway. But what now? Who's next? It won't be easy to attract another Cole.

    In an accompanying story to that of Twinsburg's loss, the Beacon Journal's Mary Ethridge described expertly with one sentence what Luxottica's purchase of Cole and the move from Twinsburg is about: ``it's all about market dominance, efficiency and shareholder value.''

    And the workers and their Northeast Ohio community? Both just got poorer. Kathyrn Wolfsberger and her daughter, Vicki, told Giffels that in this time when Ohio job loss and the president campaigns are skipping down the trail together, they ``aren't foolish enough to believe any president can suddenly hand them a better life.'' They're right. What presidents, what all government, should do is recognize what is happening in people's lives and to their work honestly assess whether
    government policies are helping them or hurting them and then do something about it.

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 11:25 AM

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