Valley still shining on national stage

The Mahoning Valley continues to get prominent recognition for its manufacturing rebirth. President Obama mentioned the region in a recent speech (the second time he has done so), and prior to that, the publication Industry Today profiled the Valley and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland.

What’s most significant is that neither mention had anything to do with the promising oil and natural gas boom, but rather the Tech Belt Initiative spearheaded by Ryan shortly after he won his Congressional seat in 2002.

Trumbull and Mahoning counties, though, still have a couple major hurdles to overcome.

One is figuring out how the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown will translate into local jobs. The institute is a clearinghouse to reward the most promising ideas behind the manufacturing revolution created by 3D printing. The recipients, however, are mostly far from the Valley.

The other is overcoming educational deficiencies. Even the flattering Industry Today expose pointed out how the manufacturing revolution ”requires superior intellectual aptitudes, employees and managers who are quick thinkers, analytical, and mathematically oriented – the types of workers manufacturing nationwide generally cannot find enough of.”

Ryan, who has aided the industry since co-founding the House Manufacturing Caucus in 2003, responded with a focus on education.

”We have taken almost every ounce of enjoyment and fun out of the education system,” Ryan told Industry Today. ”We need – and the business community needs to be a big part of this – to get Lego blocks in elementary schools. We need to get 3D printers into classrooms, implement more cutting-edge computer programming courses, get robotics into more high schools, and get more kids into technology competitions. We need to get them excited about making things, about designing and engineering.”

The Trumbull County Educational Service Center has inched in that direction through partnerships with BP and NASA. Hopefully this progress gains speed so the tech belt and manufacturing advancements blend into more educational attainment and job growth here.