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Ohio pitches for more auto jobs

January 13, 2010

Ohio pitches for more auto jobs

Detroit News Washington Bureau

Detroit — Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland met Wednesday with General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. and Chrysler Group LLC Chairman Robert Kidder at the North American International Auto Show to tout the Buckeye state’s economic climate.

Strickland and other Ohio leaders also met with officials from Chinese automaker BYD Auto, encouraging them to consider building vehicles in Ohio someday. BYD said Tuesday it plans to export an electric vehicle to the United States by the end of this year. Strickland wanted the Chinese firm "to understand that Ohio is the place where investment is welcome."

Ohio has 60,400 auto jobs and another 90,000 jobs among auto suppliers and the state is eager to attract new products and plants. Like Michigan, Ohio has been hard hit by the deep downturn in the manufacturing and the auto industry in recent years, shedding factories and jobs.

"We will do whatever we could possibly do to be competitive to make incentives available," Strickland said. He said he had talked to automakers "about some specific projects." Strickland declined to elaborate but said the talks "give me hope" that auto employment could grow in his state.

Strickland, a Democrat, also met with officials from Honda Motor Co., which has factories in Ohio in Marysville and East Liberty.

GM North America President Mark Reuss said this week the automaker could reopen some shuttered factories because some of its most popular models are in short supply, but didn’t offer any specifics.Strickland said it is unlikely that GM would reopen its assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, that closed in 2008, eliminating 2,400 jobs. GM is also closing a stamping plant in Mansfield, Ohio.

"I see no indication that decision will be undone," Strickland said in an interview with two reporters today. "We have continuously conveyed to the company our interest in trying to get something else in both of those plants."

Strickland meets with automakers typically once every three months, he said.

He said Ohio has a close relationship with the state of Michigan. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was Strickland’s mentor in the National Governors Association when he was first elected.

Ohio is pitching itself to companies, but is in a "wonderfully friendly competition with Michigan," he said.

"If I hear that Michigan gets a grant that Ohio didn’t get, I may be disappointed but I rejoice that Michigan did," he said. The two states "represent salt of the earth people who work hard."

"Michigan is as close to Ohio as it’s possible for another state to be," Strickland said. "I feel very close to Michigan."

Granholm, for her part, is zealous about trying to attract new green and auto jobs. In an interview earlier this month, she bragged about "poaching" jobs from other states.

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