Oh-Penn Region Retools Workforce for Renewed Production Demand

Manufacturing and energy sectors find new life in the Oh-Penn Region.

Kevin Litwin
On Monday, August 19, 2013 - 05:00

The Oh-Penn Region is flexing its manufacturing muscle again. The region’s five counties, long a stronghold for quality industrial production in the United States, are experiencing a resurgence of demand by advanced manufacturing and energy sectors.

“This region is the fertile crescent of manufacturing,” says Sam Giannetti, executive director of workforce development for the West Central Job Partnership, one of the area's leading economic development organizations. “This place helped build America in the previous two centuries, so it is only natural that as manufacturers repatriate, they come here.”

According to Giannetti, two factors are spurring the area’s regeneration: A supply expansion as a result of the shale energy boom and the return of manufacturing to the United States.

“We are one of the leading areas in the emerging shale energy industry, and that is causing a renaissance in the proliferation of projects here, both in manufacturing and energy source development,” he says. “We’ve had manufacturing supply groups for the energy transmission side relocating and expanding.”





Giannetti cites Ezeflow, a Canadian company that purchased New Castle, Pa.-based Flowline and invested more than $6 million there to produce pipe fittings supporting oil and gas production in the region. V & M Star, another example of the energy boom’s positive impact, recently invested $1 billion to open a rolling mill in Youngstown, Ohio, that will produce 500,000 tons of steel tubing a year and create 350 jobs.

GM, GE Invest in Plants

Renewed manufacturing and remanufacturing demand is also driving job growth. General Motors is spending $220 million for tooling and equipment to build the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze at its Lordstown and Parma plants in Northeast Ohio, retaining more than 5,000 jobs. In Grove City, Pa., GE Transportation recently spent $72 million to establish a new locomotive diesel remanufacturing plant, creating 150 new jobs.

The area’s ability to reinvent itself stems from its proven logistical advantages. Centrally located between some of the heaviest populated areas on the East Coast, the area offers close access to major interstates, Great Lakes ports, regional airports and rail systems, making it a magnet for the logistics transportation industry.

Collaborative Workforce Training

To align itself with increased need for workers who possess advanced manufacturing expertise, agencies across the five counties have assembled the Oh-Penn Interstate Region Pathways to Competitiveness project, funded by a $6 million innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

“We are working closely within the Oh-Penn region to address the skills gap in manufacturing,” says Bert Cene, executive director of the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association, an agency that provides job counseling and assessment, occupational classroom training and on-the-job training. “We’re matching the knowledge demand side of companies by coordinating with education providers to develop a curriculum to train workers in those fields.”

When V & M Star opened its new pipe facility in Youngstown, the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association conducted all of the proctor testing and recruitment, helping deliver 300 qualified candidates.

The Trumbull County, Ohio, Department of Jobs and Family Services is also working with local companies in five counties to establish job pathways by going into schools to promote careers in manufacturing. The agency is also involved in a collaborative five-county workforce innovation grant pushing for a business resource network.

“We now have an arsenal of 40 partners at our disposal,” says William Turner, workforce administrator. “We can put together a mix of services to assist businesses with whatever help they need in locating or expanding.”

As evidence, Turner’s organization recently aided V & M Star and TMK IPSCO with recruitment and on-the-job training and is working with other manufacturers on testing and referrals.

Oh-Penn’s workforce initiatives are a major reason that companies increasingly see the region as a leader in reinventing its manufacturing heritage and successfully transitioning to the new economy.

“We work with businesses to ensure that they have human resources prepared for the economy of the 21st century,” Giannetti says.


Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.