Going Global: Cause for encouragementWritten by Dan Johnson | | email@example.com
It has been painfully slow to come, but it does appear to be coming. I’m talking about an economic recovery. And, thankfully, this economic recovery includes Toledo and Northwest Ohio. For the first time in more than three years, there is genuine cause for encouragement.
There are some hard facts on employment that are difficult to refute. Unemployment in the Toledo Metropolitan Statistical Area is beginning to decline. Last year at this time the unemployment rate for the Toledo area was 10.1 percent; today it is 9.3 percent and slowly declining. While 9.3 percent is still much too high, we can be encouraged that it is moving in the right direction. Equally encouraging is the larger employment picture in Ohio. February brought decreased unemployment rates in 65 of Ohio’s 88 counties and a statewide reduction in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from 8.9 percent last year to 7.6 percent.
There are additional hard facts on exported goods and services that were reported in the March 25 Toledo Free Press, “Brookings Institution: Toledo economy improving.” These figures on the growth of Toledo exports alone give us reason to be even more optimistic. According to the Brookings Institution, Toledo “is now ranked third among the nation’s top 100 metro areas for export growth from manufacturing contributions.” This could very well be the new beginning of an important growth sector of Toledo’s economy — global trade.
There are many more subjective factors that give cause for encouragement. Among the most important is the leadership role of Mayor Mike Bell in exploring and attracting foreign investment in the Toledo region. This is a new role for Toledo’s mayor and one that we want to applaud and encourage. Foreign investment is critical if our city and region are to successfully compete with other progressive cities. Enlightened cities around the world are actively, even energetically pursuing foreign direct investment. Mayors must play a leadership role in these efforts if cities are to be successful in attracting international investment.
The mayor cannot do this alone. It requires a concerted, coordinated and collaborative effort from the region’s economic development agencies and organizations. I’m more optimistic today about our region’s economy than in previous years because of the growing levels of cooperation and collaboration among these agencies and organizations. At a recent event on international trade I overheard the leader of one of our economic development organizations refer to himself and his colleagues as the “Mayor’s team.” This is cause for encouragement.
Then there are the Toledo-area business leaders who are venturing into the global marketplace with their goods and services. This can be a daunting venture for first timers and even veterans of international marketing. There is much to know about international markets, business and trade policies, and cultural practices that vary considerably from country to country. I am also pleased and encouraged that our area institutions of higher education — University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University and Owens Community College — are stepping up to the plate by offering courses and programs to help prepare newcomers to international marketing.
At UT the College of Business and Innovation is providing special training for those who want to break into the rapidly growing international markets through its program, Global Target. In addition, most of UT’s colleges — Pharmacy, Engineering, Medicine, Law and others — are expanding their outreach and engagement to include foreign countries through recruitment of international students, study abroad, faculty exchanges, and collaborative research. These efforts and the UT’s new strategic plan for global initiatives will be strongly supportive of the role Northwest Ohio will play on the global scene.
Those who have traveled to India, China, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere know we have only scratched the surface of this opportunity. There is a vast global market for Toledo products and services waiting to be appropriately tapped.
For these and many other reasons, we have cause for encouragement as we look ahead to the remainder of 2012 and beyond. Are we out of the woods yet? Not quite, but we are headed in the right direction.
(For information on Global Target, contact Thomas.Sharkey@utoledo.edu)
Dan Johnson is director of global initiatives, president emeritus and distinguished university professor of public policy and economic development at the University of Toledo. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.