In the last month, a series of decisions and developments that will doubtless shape our area's future have continued to unfold.
New cars, new foreign investment and favorable government rulings have (finally) cast a hopeful economic light on the Mahoning Valley.
But for all the wheeling and dealing at the top that has captured headlines, the true story to be told rests with the blue-collar workers who remain our area's most indispensable asset.
The story that has captured most of the business headlines lately centers on the trifecta sweeping across the General Motors Lordstown landscape. News of a new UAW pact, a third production shift and a new compact car were announced almost simultaneously earlier this month. Media and longtime residents alike hailed the developments as long-needed saviors for northeast Ohio.
But lost in media coverage of the big news were the contributions of the blue-collar workers that have fueled the GM engine for decades. Sure, it was the usual array of elected officials, company executives and representatives who waxed quotable in the wake of the news.
The real heroes, however, were the GM assembly workers who endured years of uncertain market conditions, layoffs, recalls, transfers and downsizing and continued to turn out world-class products at a highly efficient rate.
Workers were also the unsung protagonists behind OAO SeverStal's purchase of WCI Steel. At a time when most domestic steel producers have long been eliminated, WCI Steel remains viable and relevant in an ever-changing economy. While market conditions and foreign imports have severely injured American steel production, WCI employees have rolled with the punches - and rolled out steel - after many had left them for dead.
It was especially impressive to see longtime steel workers welcome news of the company's sale. Faced with the prospect of a new owner, it would have been tempting for employees to view the sale as another piece of bad news. But the optimism with which the news was met is characteristic of the spirit that has kept WCI alive.
Wheatland Tube Co. also made headlines recently when the United States International Trade Commission ruled that illegally subsidized Chinese steel had materially injured domestic tube makers. The ruling paved the way for the application of duties on Chinese steel entering America, easing the competitive strain on Wheatland.
The Wheatland case - and the way the comprehensive effort to reverse illegal import practices was conducted - showcased Valley business at its best. Working with elected officials, union leaders and employees, the company presented its case to the federal government. The level of cooperation between union and management was impressive, especially given the Valley's somewhat archaic reputation for ''union antics.'' The United Steelworkers and Wheatland Tube worked together to show that, in this cutthroat global market, employers and employees must look upon each other as stakeholders, not adversaries.
From an economic point of view, the Mahoning Valley is by no means out of the water yet. Housing remains a concern, as do the ''brain drain'' and flurry of closings and layoffs that have become all too familiar. But over the last month, local employees and the companies they serve have shown that, despite troubling times, the blue-collar, can-do spirit that made the Valley great is still alive and well.