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It Was A Good Year For...Many Things In Ohio

Unions enjoyed a victory against SB5 this year. (Photo by Bill Rice)
Unions enjoyed a victory against SB5 this year. (Photo by Bill Rice)

It turned out to be a good year for unions, though it didn't start out that way. After Governor Kasich's Senate Bill 5 rolled through the Republican-controlled legislature, it looked like public employee collective bargaining heft was destined for a crash diet. Instead, unions muscled up. Their message and millions of dollars led to a landslide Election Day repeal. That rattled GOP leaders and some business groups, but labor groups celebrated.

"Since February, we knew Senate Bill 5 was unfair, it was unsafe, and it hurt families," declared one union representative in front of a cheering crowd. "Today in an historic vote, Ohioans have vetoed Senate Bill 5!"

And 2011 was good to steel. Despite the prospect of foreign steel infiltrating the American market, many U.S. steelmakers saw domestic demand increase….thanks in part to natural gas drilling operations in the Utica and Marcellus Shale regions of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Republic Steel also announced an $85-million investment that would bring 450 jobs to its Lorain facility. Pat Gallagher of United Steel Workers Local 1104 praised the news.

"We know we need a successful company to keep our jobs and work diligently, to forge a new agreement and a new relationship to make sure there's further investment in this plant...and steel-making continues in Loraine for another hundred years."

Steel also benefited from a surge in the automotive industry in 2011. Car-makers like Chrysler and General Motors brought back round-the-clock production shifts, as sales figures saw double-digit growth this year.

Tom Humphries of the Warren-Youngstown Chamber of Commerce was happy to see GM-Lordstown rev up production of the Chevrolet Cruze, a car that saw strong demand for most of 2011.

"And to see that transition from a plant considered closed to one that's producing their #1 product right now, speaks volumes as to how labor and management came to start working closer together."

2011 was also good for the Port of Cleveland, which saw a 60-percent jump over last year in cargo shipments.

"Typically, that cargo moves out of ports such as Baltimore and Philadelphia," says David Gutheil, the Port of Cleveland's Vice President of Maritime and Logistics. "And we're trying to make sure that the marketplace around Northeast Ohio and the region knows that we have just as much capabilities and expertise to handle that type of cargo than other ports on the coast do."

Gutheil says the Port of Cleveland could see 340,000 tons of cargo by year's end. Good, but not yet at pre-recession levels, which were often at 500,000 tons.

Speaking of Cleveland, its West 25th Street Market area also had a good year. Eric Wobser, of Ohio City Incorporated, credited community development groups like his, the city, and a motivated bunch of entrepreneurs and stakeholders.

"Who together have opened over 25 new businesses in the neighborhood, 50 million in public and private investment, including a new park, several storefront innovations. And what you're seeing is the Market District in Ohio City approaching critical mass."

On that note of growth --it was a good year for the urban garden movement. Green City Growers broke ground on a $17-million urban garden this fall. Its CEO, Mary Donnell, was there.

"We're looking at 10 acres of ground that has been assembled in the heart of Cleveland, in the central neighborhood," she told WCPN. "Where we will be building out a 3.25 acre greenhouse for year-round food production."

Urban garden buffs say raising produce out of vacant lots battles so-called "food deserts", and helps the "buy local" movement.

Much of the national and local economy is still teetering; job creation overall has been soft but as our series concludes we can say, it was a good year…if you look in the right places.