The Changing Face Of Industry And Metros

Cleveland photo by Brian Bull, ideastream/WCPN.
Cleveland photo by Brian Bull, ideastream/WCPN.
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GANZER: It’s All Things Considered here on 90.3, I’m Tony Ganzer. Industry was long the lifeblood of Northeast Ohio, as steel mills, automotive factories, and tire plants spurred economic activity. And some of that activity persists. But a new report from the Brookings Institution confirms now what you may recognize even from a look along the Cuyahoga River: the economic playing field has changed. Here to tell us more is ideastream’s Brian Bull. Hello, Brian.

BULL:Hello, Tony!

GANZER:The Brookings Institution’s newest release specifically looks at so-called “Advanced Industries” and their role in shoring up metro economies. What are those, exactly?

BULL: “Advanced Industries” as defined by Brookings researchers, are basically industries where there’s significant investment in research and development, and at least 20 percent of the workforce is involved in science, technology, engineering, or math-related jobs….

GANZER:Or “STEM” for short….

BULL:Yes, and these include things like aerospace, software, energy development, management consulting, and telecommunications.

GANZER:So what’s their role in local economies, such as Cleveland’s? There seems to be a deference to heavy manufacturing as the backbone to cities like this one. In the Federal Reserve building here for example, there’s a large mural of steel production in the lobby.

BULL:Steel was – and still is – a major industry here in Greater Cleveland. Brookings says steel and iron production employs nearly 4,000 people. And if you want to include another commonly associated industry for this area, motor vehicle parts employ roughly 7,500.

GANZER: But….there's a "but" here, right?

BULL: Yes. But, car parts and steel rank third and sixth as Cleveland’s advanced industries. Topping the list is computer systems design, which employs roughly 12,000 people locally….and architecture and engineering, which employs just over 9,000. Others in the top 10 advanced industries include management consulting, general purpose machinery, and medical equipment and supplies.

GANZER:Is this pretty much the same for some of our neighbors?

BULL: Let’s take a quick glance east, at Youngstown. There’s a deep-rooted car and metals industry there that spans generations. The top two advanced industries there are motor vehicles and motor vehicles parts, then its aluminum products, followed by iron and steel. About 4,600 workers altogether in those main four industries. It helps that GM Lordstown is nearby, maker of the popular Chevy Cruze. And while there are signs the shale boom is cooling off, Youngstown has benefited from demand for steel products that help in fracking development, as well as other energy ventures.

GANZER: Looking to the south, what does Akron have for its top advanced industries?

BULL: Architecture and engineering is first, followed by computer systems design and management consulting. Those three employ 6,400. Rubber and resins was at number 11, with iron and steel at 25.

GANZER:Numbers, rankings....they're all interesting, Brian, but let’s have some context here. What does this mean as far as how we’re doing, from an Ohio perspective?

BULL: I asked Scott Andes, Senior Policy Analyst at the Brookings Institution, just what this means for Cleveland. And he says it’s doing better for advanced industries because it has stronger blend of specialized manufacturing and skilled technical services.

Scott Andes: “Youngstown is a powerhouse in aluminum, motor vehicles, Akron, in a lot of miscellaneous manufacture (of) rubber plastics, glass…but real leaders across the country, places like Provo, Utah, Salt Lake City, or Pittsburgh, other areas that are doing quite well, have that blend of high end services and high end manufacturing. And right now Cleveland seems to be a little bit above the curve than its regional neighbors.”

BULL: Another takeaway….Cleveland’s jobs growth and output for advanced industry are both outpacing the national rate.

GANZER: So in short, this area has a diversified range of industries with which to help the economy thrive as it continues to recover from the latest recession.

BULL: Exactly. Andes says this report is help people see where the potential is for economic recovery, and global competitiveness. Advanced industries are NOT a silver bullet, but Andes says it’s a good starting point for discussion.

GANZER: And on that note Brian, we have to end our discussion. Thank you.

BULL: You’re welcome, Tony. Thanks as well!

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