Written by By JAN LARSON Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 10:06
PERRYSBURG - Ohio may be down, but it hasn't been knocked out by the crashes in the auto industry - at least that was the message conveyed Tuesday by Gov. Ted Strickland to the U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
But to help it regain its footing, Solis promised $88 million in federal money to Ohio's unemployed who are trying to hang on.
"Look at this as a down payment," Solis said to the governor during a tour of the Glasstech plant in Perrysburg Township, with more expected to come later for job training in "green" technologies.
"I see this as a flicker of hope," she said.
Glasstech, located in the Ampoint Business Park, was chosen for the tour because of its ability to continue supplying the auto industry while also branching into the solar energy field. The plant, which employs about 100 people, specializes in bending glass and tempering safety glass. The company was founded by the late Harold McMaster.
"This company can and has made the transition from the old economy to the new economy," said Tom Blaha, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission.
Glasstech produces much of its own machinery and has several patents. "We've got a homegrown company that has made the transition," from the auto industry to solar technology, Blaha said.
It's that innovation that convinced the state officials to tour the plant, according to Nikki Jaworski, of the Ohio Department of Development.
"We wanted to show what an auto supplier could do, how they are diversifying into solar," she said. "This is a hot spot of solar activity."
As Strickland and Solis toured the plant they shook hands with workers and donned safety glasses to watch a rear car window go through a furnace to bend it into shape. At the end of the tour, Solis used a centerpunch to pierce a sheet of tempered glass. The safety glass shattered, but all the pieces held together in the sheet.
Strickland praised the ingenuity of the company - with one-third of its product being sold in the U.S., another third in Europe, and another in Asia.
"These technologies have been sold throughout the world," the governor said. "This is truly a worldwide company offering cutting edge research and technologies."
And that's exactly what Ohio needs more of, Strickland added.
"This is a part of Ohio's economic recovery. It's very impressive."
The diversity shown by Glasstech is necessary for the state to be in a position to attract alternative energy jobs, he said.
"Many Ohioans and Ohio communities have and are suffering deeply," Strickland said.
But Ohio can boost its recovery by retraining dislocated workers from the auto industry, Solis said.
"This is part of the retooling of America," she said. "We are going in the right direction."
Ohio isn't alone in its efforts to get attention - and money - to help with its recovery. Officials in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, also badly hurt by the auto industry's woes, are lining up to ask the Cabinet secretaries crisscrossing the region for a better deal when it comes to getting funds from the federal recovery act.