Region’s federally recognized aerospace industry brings new dollars

Cincinnati State is evaluating locations to open its second welding laboratory and plans to open a “working warehouse” to act as a training center for its expanded logistics programming, said grant administration director Lawra Baumann.

Sinclair Community College in Dayton is developing new programs and credentials for the advanced manufacturing industry, said spokesman Adam Murka.

“It would let companies build their workforce more efficiently,” he said.

These expanded training options for in-demand occupations are funded by grant awards attributed to the Cincinnati-Dayton region’s year-old designation as a nationally recognized manufacturing community.

A public-private partnership between Cincinnati and Dayton applied last year for the federal program known as the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, and won. The Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region (SOAR), as the collaboration is called, was one of 12 designees named nationwide by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

With the two-year designation, local organizations in a 27-county area that includes northern Kentucky and Springfield get preferential treatment when applying for government funding to support the aerospace manufacturing industry.

“I think there’s tangible benefits from the standpoint of we do have an advantage in attracting federal funding from a dozen federal agencies, and there are intangible benefits in encouraging us to think as a region rather than as a county, (or) city,” Baumann said.

Because Cincinnati State Technical and Community College was able to list the designation on its grant applications, it received a higher score, which Baumann believes helped it secure two separate awards worth millions of dollars.

Cincinnati State was the sole recipient of a four-year, $2.75 million grant to fund an expansion of its supply chain and material handling educational programs.

Additionally, Cincinnati State was one of 12 community colleges statewide, including Sinclair, to win a four-year workforce training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. While the total grant was worth about $15 million to Ohio, Cincinnati State’s piece was $1 million. Some of the money will go toward opening a new welding lab, Baumann said.

Cincinnati State is trying to decide where to open the lab, and its Middletown branch campus is one of the locations in the running.

“The SOAR designation encourages the region to talk as a region versus Dayton or Cincinnati, and that’s important from the standpoint of limited resources,” Baumann said.

The manufacturing community designation was the result of a first-of-its-kind partnership between southwest Ohio’s two largest cities. It flaunted the region’s higher-than-national-average concentration of jobs and businesses in the aerospace parts and products manufacturing sector.

A year after winning the coveted status, SOAR members say extra grant dollars haven’t been the only benefit. Just as large an impact has been the spirit of greater collaboration along Interstate 75, said Karsten Sommer, manager of finance and the SOAR designation for REDI Cincinnati.

“First and foremost, I would say there is weekly communication between the four major players in this macro region,” Sommer said.

The designation’s four co-applicants are: the city governments of Cincinnati and Dayton; and the private development agencies Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Cincinnati and the Dayton Development Coalition.

Talks have led to a new partnership between the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority to create a new, shared bond fund, Sommer said. The newly formed Southwest Ohio Regional Bond Fund has enough reserves to lend as much as $80 million for projects, according to the agencies.

The Dayton Development Coalition and REDI Cincinnati have each hosted supplier summits for Airbus and Embrauer, giving local parts manufacturers opportunities to meet with airplane-makers, he said.

Additionally, plans for the Materials and Manufacturing Aerospace Technology Hub program at the University of Dayton Research Institute — in partnership with other universities, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA Glenn Research Center and others — might not have won $1.5 million from the Ohio Development Services Agency if not for greater regional collaboration, said Dave Burrows, vice president of development for the Dayton Coalition.

SOAR has created a playbook for the region to go after funding and compete for businesses together, not just at the federal level, but at the state level, Sommer and Burrows said.

“Without this designation, these things don’t happen,” Burrows said. “This national designation really, really spurred a lot of talk, so now when (Ohio Development Services Agency) looks at these things, it’s a lot easier to do.”

When the federal manufacturing communities program was first conceived, it was supposed to have funds tied to it, not just bonus points to apply to grant applications, said Sam Stephens, senior economic development analyst for Cincinnati’s Department of Trade & Development.

The SOAR group is advocating for more funding for the manufacturing industry and related infrastructure such as education and technology, Stephens said.

“This is a brand-new program not just for us, but with the federal government, and we can provide input for how it’s shaped moving forward,” he said. “Our primary focus in the year forward is to take the message that this collaboration does get results and continue to build on that.”

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