Guest blog post by Matt Erskin e, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Economic recovery in the wake of an economic disaster—such as the closing of a large employer—doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning, the coordination of human and financial resources, and a willingness to consider alternative directions that will benefit the community in the long run.
This is the story that the city of Moraine, Ohio, can tell. For nearly 90 years, Moraine—located in close proximity to Dayton, Ohio—was the location of a single, prominent manufacturing plant whose successive owners read like an honor roll of 20th century American business: Dayton-Wright Airplane (manufacturer of DeHavilland aircraft), Frigidaire (maker of an iconic line of refrigerators), and, since 1981, General Motors (GM).
When GM announced plans in June 2008 to close this plant, the development came as a blow to the local economy. Just think about the impact to suppliers and the distributors that get their business from them. According to a report published by the International Economic Development Council, the Moraine region, with more than 90 GM suppliers in 14 surrounding communities, lost more than 800 jobs at larger suppliers in addition to the 4,200 jobs that were lost when GM shut down.
Within weeks of GM’s announcement, staff from the Chicago regional office of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration  (EDA) began working with state and local officials in Ohio to develop a strategy to deal with the effects of the Moraine plant closure. As a first step, an EDA investment helped the city develop a bottom-up Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to guide the region’s recovery efforts.
The CEDS report provided Moraine with a comprehensive look at what the city should do to improve its economic prospects. It identified five key economic development goals for the city, providing detailed implementation strategies for each one. It also inventoried Moraine’s strengths—including its physical plant, human capital, and government and regulatory structures—and recommended how the city could build on these to attract such growing industries as renewable energy, aerospace, advanced materials and manufacturing, health services and technology, logistics and distribution, and business and professional services.
EDA assistance didn’t stop with the CEDS report. EDA’s staff has continued to provide technical assistance and is working with Moraine officials on the redevelopment of the former GM site. Additionally, an EDA-funded revolving loan fund is providing capital to new and existing businesses in the Dayton, Ohio, region. Coupled with the long-range planning strategy for Moraine, these are initiatives that will help spur job creation and assure the future economic health of this once auto-dependent community.
Moraine’s is part of a larger national story. America’s big three automakers are turning profits and opening new factories because of swift action taken by President Obama. Today, workers aren’t just building cars—they are building better, more fuel-efficient automobiles that help Americans save money at the pump every time they fill up.
The resurgence of the American auto industry is a key to the nation’s long-term economic recovery. There have been many successes: new jobs are being created in the sector, auto companies are now turning a profit, and communities across the country, like Moraine, have been revitalized by a strengthened auto industry.