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Posts Tagged ‘career’

A Deafness to Success

January 22, 2012 1 comment

My Great Aunt Jeanie Yates was “deaf” since birth. Growing up in a time where deafness was considered a sign of deficiency, my late Grandmother (her sister) recalls sending Jeanie to a “special school” in Columbus, Ohio for weeks at a time. The tragedy of being “deaf” (as it was called then, now we say hearing impaired) seem tragic to their family.

But, upon meeting Aunt Jeanie, she was the perfect model of fierce independence. A gregarious soul that actually hated using sign language, she read lips…and communicated very effectively by mimicking the words back to us. Living on her own in Columbus for most of her adult life, she worked, participated and lived life to the absolute fullest.  She never let the challenge stop her, and she was open to telling the world how she rose out of the era where being “deaf and dumb” meant a one way ticket to demise. She also had a way of saying that being hearing impaired was actually a good thing and that she could actually bring a significant contribution to the conversation.

I was thinking about Aunt Jeanie lately when I was discussing the matter of our region to a colleague and also to my wife. “Its like we are deaf to our own success” I quipped. Realizing I’d said something somewhat profound (a shock), I quickly wrote down some notes:

1) Why is that places like Lima-Ford Engine plant do not share their manufacturing successes?

2) Why is that Proctor & Gamble discuss how they have  world renowned model of processing?

3) Why is that the small innovative industries go unrecognized?

4) Why is that the education institutions in this region are content on being “behind the scenes”?

The list went on for a while, but it came down to this basic fact, we as a region have a deafness to success. We do not promote our causes, we do not talk about the good things that happen, we certainly do not sell ourselves “Good Job”…those are values that seem somewhat Midwestern, “lay low, go with the flow” and certainly don’t bring attention to yourself.

This reality came to clear crossroads recently when Judy Cowan of the Ohio Energy and Advance Manufacturing Center (OEAMC) was speaking at a recent announcement of a new product line at AmericanTrim. The Ohio Department of Development director, Mrs Schmenk, was quite taken aback by what she heard about our region. She simply did not know all the good that happens here.

Who is to blame? Well no one, but like my dear Aunt Jeanie did, embracing your gifts and living them is the route to being successful and happy. It is time for us to interacting in the world around us and not being afraid of who we are and what we are about.

Eric

Creative Conservatism

January 11, 2012 Comments off

Any regular readers of my blog will know I have passionate views about certain trends we’re witnessing in our times. One note that resonates loudly many times over in my posts is the concept of creativity (or the lack there of).

Take for example this recent post in Wired Magazine…“Killing America’s Dreams, One Lousy Concept Car at a Time”.

The Detroit Auto Show has always been a glimpse into the future of automobiles, which in turn gave us pause to consider the future of everything.  But now it seems that the designers have stepped back into what I call creative conservatism. Dare we throw out our ideas and they are not accepted by the intelligentsia.

So here we are in 2012. We have batches of engineers and designers that likely came of age within the  hyper-testing culture of the U.S. education system. They have been asked to remember facts and regurgitate onto exams to make sure they are “proficient”. However in those mass production zones of schools, creativity has been educated out of most children.

In this blog title, you see the phrase, “Dreams roll across the heartland…” This line is part of the song “Middletown Dreams” by the Canadian rock group Rush. The song goes to explain the dreams most middle class Americans have about their possible lives, and the realities of their times. The great conflict between following your dreams or abiding by standard social convention.

Looking at the cars in this years car show, its clear to me this conflict is alive and well in our modern society.

Eric

Viva The Patent Clerk

January 7, 2012 Comments off

We all recall that  Albert Einstein’s first big career move was as a Swiss patent clerk.

Oh the patent clerk, perhaps viewed upon at the time as the most menial of Swiss civil professional roles. Einstein struggled, even within this career at first, being denied a promotion (how would you like that on your resume, “Denied promotion to Albert Einstein”).

A patent office….hmmm. As our country recovers from this “Great Recession” as it is now known, perhaps the answer to our problem does not lie within a great lecture hall or capital rotunda, but within our own US Constitution.  In fact, check out Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.

In 1787, the first Constitutional Convention approved (with a unanimous vote) what became the “patent clause”. This obscure little clause authorized the new US government to: “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

It is also interesting that by the early 1800’s, the United States was issuing more patents then our nation of origin, Great Britain and that those patents were leading to job creation and job growth…increasing our overall economic might.

We’ve been a nation of innovators since the birth of this country with the first colonies. We’ve adapted, we’ve changed, we’ve grown and we’ve made mistakes and learned from that. Those mistakes have allowed our creative classes to ask new questions about old problems. The stereo-typical inventor of the past (either Thomas Edison or Professor Philip Brainard from the movie Flubber) allowed themselves to do just that, ask a new question about an old problem.

That old problem (whether it be career, where to find a cure for cancer, how to grow tomatoes better, or even our education system) begs to be revisited again with a fresh perspective. Those that ask the questions, and can be allowed to nurture their ideas, will be the ones to lead us all into a new era of this country.

Eric

Small Town Opportunities

January 5, 2012 Comments off

I have a deep interest in small towns. My parents grew up in a small town, I grew up in a small town and we currently live in a small town.

Much has been said about the decline of small town America. There is a sense that, like many things, small towns speak of a bygone era…a less-then-progressive environment…a place of limited opportunities and closed minded philosophies. Yet, for all of these negative views, small towns still remain as viable part of the landscape of Ohio (and our country).

So, what’s really going on here?

Recently Becky McCray of Small Biz Survival condensed the top 9 rural business trends. Her full write up can be found here.

Here are the 9 trends, I’ve paraphrased with my perspectives, but please read her insights!

1. Strong farm commodity prices mean strong local economies.
We owe our existence to agriculture and that relationship will remain. As changes occur in the farm industry, so to will those changes occur in small towns.

2. Some places get “just one more” oil boom.
With the advancements in oil discovery and recovery, many places are rediscovering resources long felt expended.

3. Supporting the local economy takes more than “Shop Local.”
Bank local, invest local, save local.

4. Self-employment continues to rise.
What a perfect environment to try something risky. Small towns allow for start ups to occur with minimal risk.

5. Ruralsourcing brings more high-tech to rural areas.
New term? You bet, versus global outsourcing, some companies are looking to rural communities and resources to provide those services.

6. Government cuts hurt.
Arts, literature, tourism, things that commonly were supported by government subsidies now need to be revisited.

7. Online doesn’t mean in front of a computer.
Mobile web, smart phones, the iPad and other devices have allowed for more flexibility in exchanging data, ideas and resources. This is NOT tied to sitting at home.

8. Online reviews make everyone a local.
Profound…

9. Rural broadband drives business development.
As the spread of web services across the heartland increases, so do opportunities to interact within a regional and global economy.

Let’s keep this conversation going….

Eric

Super Conductor

December 16, 2010 Comments off

We all had childhood dreams of what we wanted to be when we “grew up”. Many of these dreams remain that for some sad reason. Weather we are told they are to lofty, or silly or what not, dreams remain a little thread in the mosaic of our lives.

I could launch into the discussion as to why this happens, how education, society, what not, makes it seem impossible to live dreams. However, I am tired of theory, I am tired of hearing about “planning” to see change. Simply, its now time for action.

This leads me to the recent story of Keith Fitzhugh. A talented football player that has enjoyed several seasons with the NFL, a dream job if you will, playing football. What young athlete does not imagine themselves making it big? Mr. Fitzhugh clearly did. Not only did he play at Mississippi State as a safety, but he “made it big” if you will in the National Football League.

However, like many of us, the rise and fall of the tides in life effected him and his dream of NFL stardom. Being released from an NFL team is a powerful message and without clear prospects for the future, Mr. Fitzhugh reinvented himself, and followed yet another dream…a dream of riding that magic carpet ride of steel, a dream of working on the railroad.

Mr Fitzhugh, all 210 lbs of him, will now climb the ladder of a locomotive, not of NFL stardom, for he was hired on with Norfolk Southern Railroad. Soon after, he learned that the New York Jets picked up his option to play…and wanted him on the next flight. Faced with super stardom or obscurity, he kept his commitment with the railroad, saying that he did not want to let them or his family down. NFL life can be fleeting, but the railroad was more secure.

When asked about his fans, he said simply:

“You have families that go outside in their yards or go by the tracks, and just wave at the conductors and engineers as they are riding by — that feeling is really good…” , “Like the experience in the NFL, you still have fans out there.”

He’s gained another…

Eric

 

Where has all the innovation gone?

November 5, 2010 Comments off

In 1925, something very peculiar rolled out of the gate at the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio.  (ED- For those of you who may not know, Lima was once home to one of the worlds largest manufactures of steam locomotives. The sprawling Lima Locomotive Works, known to the community as the “Loco”, was Lima’s calling card to the world.) Something about this steam locomotive caught the eyes of the yard crew assigned to move this locomotive to its first testing grounds,  the hilly Albany Division of the New York Central Railroad.

The engine was known as the A-1.  This was the prototype of what became known as Lima “Superpower” locomotives. With radical redesign of basic elements of steam locomotives at the time, this engine generated 69, 400 lbs of tractive effort (the “pull” if you will). Considering the size of the the locomotive, this was a 33% increase in power. This was a remarkable achievement.

Simply put, Lima broke the mold and began a new era in railroad technology…and just in time too…for the world was hurtling toward WWII and the demand on the railroads would be at its zenith.

Here is an example of Superpower in action, the Nickle Plate Road steam locomotive, 765, thunders through the Cuyahoga Valley on a recent excursion.

“Breaking the mold”…a term that implies chucking the “old way” and doing something new, rethinking the problem, rediscovering the thrill of creativity. Innovation.

Where have all the innovation (and innovators) gone?  The process for small business development, the loans, the paper work, makes it nearly impossible for people to implement a new idea. In an era of fear (and this is not fear mongering, this is fact if you listen to anyone in business and industry), stepping out of the box could lead to disastrous results.

I am not content with this paradigm. In our little corner of the globe, as I’ve mentioned before, our personal skill sets and brain power has a great amount of depth. We are surrounded by educational institutions, infrastructure, space, and low tax rates…plus, people WANT to work and want to see change (believe it or not).

These are all dots in a connect the dots picture. A picture of opportunity that is generated by those of us in this region, not by a program from Columbus or Washington.

Pencils and crayons anyone?

Eric

Admitting the Mistakes- Now what will change?

September 30, 2010 Comments off

Its bold to see a Governor admit such things prior to an election and the honest truth is sometimes hard to swallow. However, notice no plan was proposed for change. This is from the Toledo Blade.

Strickland, Fisher say Ohio erred in saving jobs
Leaders: State could’ve acted faster

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said the state Department of Development should move faster to keep factories from closing.
( THE BLADE )

By JOE VARDON
BLADE PROJECTS EDITOR
Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor both said Tuesday that the state Department of Development should move faster to keep factories from closing and relocating to other states.

But Gov. Ted Strickland told The Blade that if keeping a factory from shutting its doors and shifting to Indiana, Tennessee, or elsewhere means outbidding those states with financial incentives, Ohio should engage in that bidding war only if it “is in the long-term interests of the state.” Yesterday the Blade concluded its three-day investigative series, Shut Down & Shipped Out, which revealed that about 140 factories with 20 or more employees have closed in northwest Ohio dating back to 2000, totaling about 18,000 lost jobs. At least 52 companies relocated work elsewhere within the United States, and 37 shifted work to another country.

In the last two years, with the country in the grip of a deep national recession, northwest Ohio lost at least 15 factories with 2,200 employees to other states — including four factories to Indiana. At least 32 factories closed overall during that time frame, totaling about 3,700 lost jobs, in the 18-county region around Toledo.

John Kasich, the Republican gubernatorial challenger in Ohio who currently leads Governor Strickland in the polls, said The Blade’s findings illustrate the chief problem facing the state.

“We’re too slow, we’re not ahead of the game, and we’re losing jobs to other states that are,” Mr. Kasich said. “People try to blame this all on the national economy. Some states are winning; we are losing.”

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DAY 1: Factory closings rock the region as other states gain from Ohio’s pain

DAY 1: Fostoria endures fallout from string of plant closings

DAY 2: Archbold workers fell victim to corporate cleaver

DAY 2: Four year after American Lincoln plant closed, former employees struggle to recover

DAY 3: Many local factories still feel NAFTA’s sting

DAY 3: Ohio, Michigan outpace nation in increase of exports

DAY 3: Retraining programs often don’t lead to better jobs or pay

FACTORY SEARCH:
Search through our database of closed factories to see how many jobs were lost and where they went.

SHARE YOUR STORY:
Have you been affected by factory closings? Share your story here

Much of the argument in Ohio’s highest-profile political races this fall, between
Governor Strickland and Mr. Kasich and the U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, is over how Ohio conducts economic development.

Mr. Kasich has said he would replace the Ohio Department of Development, which has 408 employees and a $1.15 billion budget, with a private, nonprofit corporation governed by a 12-member board — a move Mr. Strickland said would be dangerous and irresponsible.

The department was accused by some northwest Ohio mayors of being nonresponsive or too slow to piece together incentives packages to keep factories from moving across state lines.

Mitch Roob, Indiana’s secretary of commerce, who oversees the state’s 65-employee, $37 million economic development operation, said he has won business from Ohio by the speed with which he can construct an incentives package for a factory considering a move.

Governor Strickland said the state’s development department should be “faster and more efficient,” but the governor also said it is necessary for Ohio officials to use caution before approving incentives for companies.

“If we were able or willing to give whatever resources were necessary to compete, we would never lose a competition,” Mr. Strickland said.

“But we’ve got a responsibility to the citizens of our state and to our state. And I think we do really well.”

Governor Strickland and Mr. Fisher, who ran the Ohio Department of Development from 2007 to February, 2009, both said the state had acted quickly and used incentives to attract and retain jobs on numerous occasions — including some in northwest Ohio.

On Sunday The Blade reported that since 2007, Ohio development officials played a role in the retention of Cooper Tire & Rubber in Findlay, Schindler Elevator in suburban Toledo, Chase Brass and Copper in Williams County, and the recruitment of a Whirlpool Corp. plant to Ottawa, Ohio — saving about 1,500 jobs.

“I want every mayor in the state to know that we’ve always had an open-door policy where a mayor can call me or the governor directly if it’s necessary to intercede,” said Mr. Fisher, who according to polling trails Mr. Portman in the race to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich. “Any time the governor or I become aware [of a potential business leaving Ohio], we intercede immediately.”

But Mr. Fisher also distanced himself from the development department he used to run, saying Ohio should lean more toward speed than caution when offering companies incentives packages.

In three recent cases of plants closing or massively downsizing in northwest Ohio and shifting work to Indiana, those companies were offered about $4 million in incentives to relocate. Ohio did not make a counteroffer in any of those cases.

Ohio was criticized by mayors whose cities lost those factories for having a complicated, drawn-out process for approving incentives in which outside boards and commissions must study incentive applications before giving the go-ahead.

“A state that responds fast but throws money at the problem may be fast, but is irresponsible with the spending of the taxpayers’ money,” Mr. Fisher said. “We believe you have to have a healthy balance between speed and making sure it’s the best use of the taxpayers’ dollar.”

Still, Mr. Fisher said he would like Ohio to speed up its approval process. When asked why the state’s process isn’t fast enough for him, given that he was in charge of the development department for two years, Mr. Fisher said: “There are still many people who believe the most important thing is to protect the expenditure of taxpayers’ money and that we always have to err on the side of caution to make sure that we’re not throwing money at a company unnecessarily.”

Mr. Portman, Mr. Fisher’s opponent, did not respond directly to The Blade. But Portman campaign spokesman Jessica Towhey said “manufacturers and other businesses clearly feel that the state is making it harder, not easier, for them to grow and create jobs here in Ohio.”

Although some economic and business-cost factors seem to favor Indiana, there are others that suggest Ohio is competitive with its neighbor.

Indiana’s unemployment rate in August was a hair higher than Ohio’s (10.2 percent in Indiana compared to Ohio’s 10.1 percent), but Indiana gained about 40,000 jobs since August, 2009. Ohio gained about 7,300 jobs since August, 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for manufacturing employees in Ohio was less than in Indiana in 2009 ($43,011 in Ohio, $45,643 in Indiana), but electricity costs (6.19 cents per kilowatt hour for industrial users in Ohio versus 5.71 cents in Indiana) and average worker compensation rates ($3.37 per $100 of payroll in Ohio and $2.22 in Indiana) favor Indiana.

Mr. Fisher and Mr. Strickland both said investments made by the Strickland administration in alternative energy research, development, and manufacturing will foster an economic rebirth in Ohio. They said those investments — including millions of dollars poured into Toledo for solar panels — would have made more of an impact already if not for the near collapse of the U.S. economy at the end of 2008.

“I don’t pretend to have solved all the problems,” Governor Strickland said. “But I do think that even in the most difficult economic circumstances, challenges unlike anything we’ve experienced in many, many decades, my administration has worked to lay a solid foundation for future growth going forward.”

Contact Joe Vardon at:jvardon@theblade.comor 419-724-6559.

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