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What Happened to Ohio?

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Democrat Governor Ted Strickland and his republican opponent John Kasick met with the regional press Thursday. The gubernatorial opponents came together in hopes of obtaining press endorsement for their campaign. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described the meeting as testy as both sides tried to win over the press with their economic plans to rebuild Ohio. We may all understand the state’s current economic peril but what brought us to this point.

Ohio: A state once rich in assorted manufacturing, steel, automotive and rubber industries. Has a state once proud of its blue collar heritage and staunch traditional values become comprised of vast wasteland industries. As the state struggles to regain its identity so does its inhabitance.

Ohio’s economy is mostly comprised of farming, manufacturing, as well as, a substantial white collar industry base thanks to the many Fortune Companies headquartered here. With such diversity who does a candidate try to appeal to especially when growing economic needs have forced some to break from old party lines? Well if you follow the polls, candidates are taking their cues from the economy and the state’s 10.4% unemployment ratio (as of June 2010). A frightening statistic when you consider the national average has hovered around 9.6% May to August 2010.

So what happened? What brought the region to this point? Republican candidate Kasick’s campaign believes it is partly due to Gov. Strickland’s inability to retain jobs in Ohio. Other’s such as Gov. Strickland would point to a simple formula. One word: outsourcing. Three words: oversea trade agreements. All equal a greater four-syllable word: unemployment. The very things he criticizes Kasick for empathizing his ties to Wall Streeters and plans to continue outsourcing.

Well, the steel industries were in trouble dating back to the 80’s. The closing of these mills propelled the states’ economy into a dive it never seemed to recover fully from. Finacial analyst at the time expected most workers would eventually transition into other areas of the manufacturing industry. Instead, Ohio’s unemployment ratios continued to mount like a leaking facet as businesses continued to outsource, smaller businesses began to close their doors and larger corporations downsized.

Central to southern Ohio has enjoyed some booming white collar industry success. However, this sector is now wrestling with the same unprecedented obstacles the manufacturing industry has faced: outsourcing and corporate downsizing. Today both sides are in peril as the state’s economy continues to slide. Even the expanding medical institution such as Cleveland Clinic and its subsidiaries within the northern region cannot offset the states growing deficit.

So what is the answer? How does Ohio break this downward spiral? Will it ever be able to retain its middle class blue collar heritage? Time will only tell. Ohio, just like the rest of the country is waiting for the next wave of change to occur.