By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Wood County is having a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs.
But the issue waiting in the wings is the low unemployment level in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent.
While that low rate is great news to employees, it is also worrisome to economic development officials.
“It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said Thursday morning during his quarterly report to the county commissioners.
But right now, Wood County is reveling in the news that four manufacturing plants are expanding here:
- First Solar, in Lake Township, investing $400 million and creating 500 jobs.
- Walgreens, in Perrysburg Township, investing $80 million and creating 350 jobs.
- Continental Structural Plastics, in North Baltimore, creating 100 jobs.
- Equity Meats, in Bloom Township, creating 50 jobs.
“It’s been a very busy start for the year,” Gottschalk told the commissioners.
And three other businesses have shown great interest in locating in the county, making multiple visits here, he added.
“There are three percolating through the system,” Gottschalk said, without revealing the business names.
Wood County has an estimated 60,000 people in its labor force. So 600 jobs is about 1 percent of the unemployment rate, he explained.
That means the county’s ability to attract new industry will become more challenging. Gottschalk predicted that companies with upper tier wages will still be able to attract employees, but others may struggle to fill positions.
“It will make it more difficult to attract average-pay employers,” he said.
Existing companies in Wood County are already having trouble filling empty positions, Gottschalk said.
“The available labor force is relatively small,” he said.
For years, Ohio has been attractive to prospective employers because of the strong work ethic associated with employees.
“Ohio has a very good reputation for its labor force,” Gottschalk said. “It just doesn’t have enough.”
The state is seeing its older population grow, and its younger population not being replenished. “There are a lot of people looking at the labor situation,” he said.
“We have an aging population and a very low growth rate. There will be a smaller labor force to draw on in the future,” Gottschalk said.
In order to promote manufacturing jobs to young prospective workers in Wood County, the economic development office is holding its second annual Manufacturing Camp this summer. The students will work with people from NASA, Penta Career Center robotics, and First Solar. The kids will also tour four local manufacturing plants: Owens-Illinois, Lubrizol, Home Depot distribution center, and Northwood Industries.