Friday, November 28, 2008 at 5:17 AM
Business owners in the Mahoning Valley are turning the clock back 16 years, attempting to jump-start their flailing economy. ideastream®'s Rick Jackson reports.
There’s a minor league hockey game in Youngstown tonight, and business and labor leaders in the region hope to pack the arena.
Their interest is more than just sports enthusiasm.
They’ll also be introducing an economic revitalization program aimed at persuading local employers to give financial incentives to workers who “Buy American”, starting with the product the local economy is most closely tied to - cars.
Area unions bought and distributed most of the game tickets. Jim Graham is UAW Local 1112’s President, and insists this is one of the most patriotic, and community-supporting efforts residents can try.
Jim Graham: “We have to do something. We can’t sit on our thumbs, and we can’t wait for Congress to act. We have to start doing something and hopefully start spreading throughout the country.”
If this sounds vaguely familiar - you’re right. Warren was the epicenter of a similar ‘buy American’ kick campaign in the spring of 1992.
National publications like the New York Times caught wind of the story, and the idea spread. In a matter of a few months local sales of cars increased 16% over the same period the previous year, and the American-made share of the `national ‘ automobile market increased for the first time in 30 years.
More than 40 Ford, Chrysler, and GM dealers met this week to lend support to this renewed effort. Diane Sauer owns the largest Chevy dealership in Trumbull County, and she honestly believes lightning CAN strike twice.
Diane Sauers: “In 1992 it was accomplished to go nationwide, and that was before really there was the internet, really computers, before the ability to go across the nation in seconds.”
The automotive industry, including GM’s plant in Lordstown, employs some 5,000 people in the Mahoning Valley. Jim Graham thinks it’s a prime spot to re-start the “buy American” movement.
Jim Graham: “What better venue than small town America; a community that’s going to be aversely affected if Lordstown shuts down?
While the ‘92 plan offerred cash of up to $600 to car buyers, the new “Rev UP America” campaign is still being assembled.
The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber says cash is again among options sure to be considered, as the program takes shape.
The group has commitments from a half dozen congress members to show up at the Chevrolet Centre tonight.
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