The Dayton region’s five largest companies are in a strong position financially but all face challenges unique to their industries, as well as a common dilemma: finding workers with the right skills.
Together the five private businesses employ more than 33,000 workers locally, and encompass industries that are among the most vital to the region’s economic vitality.
This story is part of The Path Forward, a Dayton Daily News initiative to find solutions to our community’s biggest issues. One of those issues is making sure our local businesses are positioned for the future. For this story, we investigated the region’s top five non-government employers ranked by number of employees. They are:
• Premier Health in Dayton, which has 12,233 full-time equivalent employees;
• Kettering Health Network in Kettering, with 10,800 full-time equivalents;
• Crown Equipment Corp. of New Bremen, which has 4,800 employees in Ohio, most of them in the Dayton region;
• Honda of America, which employs 15,000 workers in Ohio, including 3,000 employees at the Anna Engine Plant; and
• LexisNexis in Miami Township, which has an estimated 3,000 employees locally, according to the development coalition’s data. LexisNexis was the only company that did not provide updated numbers.
The rankings were done using data compiled earlier this year by the Dayton Development Coalition. The Dayton Daily News pulled out government employers from the data — including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with its 27,500 workers — to measure the strength of private sector employers in the region.
Perhaps not surprising, four of the five are part of two big growth sectors in the American economy: health care and manufacturing. Both industries are key to strengthening the local economy.
Manufacturing makes up 22 percent of the 14-county region’s gross regional product — $16.4 billion — and health care grabs 9 percent at nearly 7 billion, according to data collected by the data analytics firm Emsi.
“When you look at these five companies, you see a snapshot of the region’s economic strengths and diversity,” said Jeff Hoagland, the development coalition’s president and chief executive. “From manufacturing to health care, their growth helps drive our economy, not only through the wages they pay their employees, but through their engagement in our community.”
The two companies at the top — Premier Health and Kettering Health — are in fierce competition with each other for market share. But competition isn’t the only force slamming health care providers, which simultaneously must deal with issues related to consolidation, threatened cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, demand for cost cutting and greater cost-transparency, deep changes in the insurance market, consumer preferences for how to access health care and workforce issues, including finding workers in a tight labor market.
“I would say it’s a very competitive industry. Particularly on the provider side,” said Allen Baumgarten, an independent health care industry analyst based in Minneapolis. “For hospital systems like Kettering and like Premier, and like the Cleveland Clinic and others, their number one goal right now is growth. That’s growth in terms of patients, growth in terms of geographic footprints and other dimensions of growth as well.”
Hoagland said the region’s big health care nonprofits — Premier, Kettering, Dayton Children’s and CareSource — “are huge employment drivers for this region.”
He worries they could also be targets for takeover. Baumgarten said Cleveland Clinic remains in acquisition mode both in Ohio and in Florida.
“That’s one thing we will continue to look at: Are any of them ripe for acquisitions?” Hoagland said. “That has to be a concern at all points in time. In my opinion, we are playing offense all the time. But you also have to play defense.”
Mary Boosalis, president and chief executive at Premier, acknowledged that consolidation is sweeping the health care industry, but she said Miami Valley Hospital — the network’s largest facility — is older than Cleveland Clinic and has a long history of local control.
“Bigger isn’t always better,” she said.
Baumgarten said acquisitions increase a provider’s footprint and expand its patient base but can be expensive.
“I’m not sure it is obvious to me that there is a return on investment to the Cleveland Clinic if they were to come into Dayton and acquire Premier or form an investment partnership with it,” he said. “But it is definitely a possibility.”
Officials at both health networks say the Medicaid expansion in Ohio has been a boon to their business, and they hope it isn’t reversed. During his gubernatorial campaign, Republican Gov.-elect Mike DeWine said he would continue Medicaid expansion but push for changes, including work requirements for some recipients.
“We really have to continue our effort to provide coverage to as many people as possible in Dayton and the southwest Ohio region and continue the success of Medicaid expansion,” said Tim Dutton, senior vice president and chief human resource officer at Kettering Health Network. “Although Medicaid does not pay for all of our cost of care, it is really vital to the millions of Ohioans who receive care through that program, and the thousands of them who receive it in the Dayton region.”
Urban hospital systems in Ohio face the challenge of an aging, often lower-income population that has greater health care needs and fewer resources to pay for care than a suburban population, experts say. Health networks are trying to be nimble in following the seismic shifts in population, changing consumer preferences and demand for outpatient care, which is far cheaper than the traditional full-service hospital emergency room.
That is why you see urgent cares popping up all over. In recent years, both Kettering and Premier have purchased or built new hospitals, outpatient facilities and physician practices outside their original core markets.
“That’s where they are making their investments now in these areas of population growth, and where there is higher average income and where the population is mostly covered by employer group insurance as opposed to Medicaid or uninsured people,” Baumgarten said.
Although Premier’s decision earlier this year to close Good Samaritan Hospital was controversial, Boosalis defended the decision as fiscally responsible.
“That was probably one of the most emotionally difficult decisions our board has had to make, and our board is local,” Boosalis said. “Every bit of analysis indicated that as much as we all love Dayton, we have an aging (population) and there is not growth in the urban core.”
She said the “community was over-bedded,” renovation costs for Good Sam were too high and people in northwest Dayton still have easy access to Miami Valley Hospital and its 900 beds.
Health networks are also looking to shave costs by partnering with other providers for expertise and training. Both hospital systems say they partner with area universities and colleges to provide clinical training to college students seeking health care careers, and to ensure that course offerings align with the current and future job openings.
Premier physicians, for example, can work with physicians at the Texas-based MD Anderson Cancer Center on cancer treatment efforts. Kettering and Kroger Health’s Little Clinics have a clinical collaboration providing 10 of Kroger’s in-store clinics with access to the Kettering Physician Network’s physicians and advanced practice providers.
Kettering also opened the only emergency room in Preble County.
“Our focus has been on growing into new markets and taking care of people who haven’t been well taken care of in the past,” Dutton said.
The manufacturing sector is recovering after a long decline, but this isn’t your father’s factory. Automation and technology have displaced some workers while boosting overall productivity. More highly skilled workers are needed to operate, manage and maintain the high-tech equipment that is used in today’s manufacturing processes.
The two manufacturing companies on our list — Honda and Crown — are both hiring. But to get the right workers now and in the future, both are partnering with educators from middle and high school, vocational schools and colleges.
“(One of our) challenges is preparing our workforce for the technology that is continuously changing and making sure we are ready for that technology,” Jeff Cox, chief operations adviser at the Honda Engine Plant in Anna.
Randy Niekamp, vice president of human resources at Crown, which manufacturers forklifts and other lift trucks, said the current labor market is “very competitive” and a far cry from the Great Recession a decade ago, when the company cut pay, laid off workers and froze benefits.
The company is now growing, with plans for a $130 million investment in New Bremen that will create about 500 new jobs. The state approved a 10-year, 2.013 percent tax credit for the expansion, which will address capacity issues and lead to the development of new products.
One of those products is a more sophisticated — or smart — forklift. Niekamp said companies are interested in a forklift that can alert their product management system when an item has been removed from a shelf, or can track incidents when the forklift hits something too hard.
“Think about how much your car has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, with backup cameras and technology,” Niekamp said. “All of that same sort of stuff is hitting the lift truck industry.” The company is also benefiting from the economic boon, which has spurred the construction of warehouses from one end of Ohio to the other.
Materials handling “is very much buoyed by a strong economy” said Tom Jackson, a Philadelphia-based regional economist at IHS Markit, an information and insight company. “It’s not just manufacturing. It’s all the different distribution (companies). I know that’s been going wild in Ohio. Anywhere they’re moving stuff around you need things like forklifts to move it.”
One of Crown’s strengths is that it is vertically integrated, Jackson said, meaning it controls all aspects of design and production of lift trucks and most of their components.
Niekamp agreed. “Our vertical integration strategy gives us control over quality and delivery,” he said.
Honda is also moving aggressively to anticipate the future buying habits of consumers.
For the auto industry, that means coming up with ways to improve fuel economy through electrification — even though electric vehicles make up just 0.8 percent of vehicles registered in the U.S., said Stephanie Brinley, principal analyst at IHS Markit in Southfield, Mich.
“To meet the regulations that are coming … technology is going to be part of the solution,” Brinley said. “(It’s) knowing you need to invest in a technology that isn’t flying off the shelves yet but know that you have to do it for the future.”
Honda has worked with General Motors on fuel cell technology — which creates vehicle electrification using a chemical process — and Brinley said their first fuel cell stack will go into vehicles on the road by 2020.
Brinley and longtime auto industry analyst David Cole say Honda is particularly well suited for that high-tech future, in part because it has been willing to partner with GM, a global leader in electrification technology.
“Honda is prepared,” said Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Both Honda and Crown are watching for potential impacts of a trade war sparked by President Donald Trump’s decision to put tariffs on products in his effort to negotiate better trade deals with other countries. The Trump administration and some supporters like Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio have argued the tariffs are one tool to address a trade imbalance with China and some other countries.
The tariffs have driven up the price of both imported and domestic steel and added to the cost of products, said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America Inc., in Sept. 26 testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.
“The key point is that tariffs, no matter how short-lived, are enormously disruptive to the stability of a business and reduce the value business can provide to customers and contribute to society,” Schostek testified.
The final company on our list, LexisNexis Legal and Professional, is owned by a London-based company, but its roots are in Dayton as a remnant of one of the city’s most recognizable legacy names: Mead.
In the 1960s the Mead Corp. purchased a company called Data Corporation and used that company’s technology to develop and launch the LEXIS database of legal cases.
Mead is gone from Dayton but LexisNexis remains, now owned by RELX Group, and has grown into a global provider of legal, regulatory and business information and analytics.
The company has long been the subject of rumors that it will downsize or move away. Hoagland said he’s not seeing the “flight-risk” markers that were visible before Teradata announced earlier this year that it was moving to California, impacting some 300 local jobs. He said LexisNexis Vice President Kermit F. Lowery sits on the Dayton Development Coalition board and the coalition keeps the lines of communication open with the company.
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“The presence here from Lexis is so much larger than Teradata’s was,” Hoagland said.
A spokeswoman for LexisNexis, who asked that her name not be used, declined to confirm that 3,000 people work at the company’s Miami Twp. facility. That figure comes from Dun and Bradstreet and Salesforce data used by the Dayton Development Coalition to track local companies.
In an email, the LexisNexis spokeswoman said the Miami Twp. campus “is a core facility for many LexisNexis and RELX business functions. It is our largest U.S. location, supporting key functions including Sales, Marketing, Customer Operations, Human Resources, Finance and Legal. We are committed to the area and readily find talent for these business functions from the southwest Ohio corridor.”
One analyst said a challenge for LexisNexis is the “mature market” for the legal products the company is best known for, and cost-cutting by the customers that rely on those products. Law firms used to subscribe to both LexisNexis and its main competitor, Westlaw, but as the recession hit, many of them cut back to just one, said Michael Feit, president of Ft. Lauderdale-based Feit Consulting, which consults with law firms negotiating with both companies.
“There are no new customers to go out and get, and a lot of its customer base is making a choice between Lexis or its competitor,” Feit said.
Both have user-friendly platforms, according to Feit, but Westlaw launched their updated platform first, causing LexisNexis to lose some of its customer base, Feit said.
“So where they had 90 percent of the market share of all law firms, now you’re looking at something like 45 percent,” he said.
In an email, the LexisNexis spokeswoman said the company is “focused on adding value to our customers by providing them with innovative information solutions, analytics, and decision tools that incorporate cutting-edge technologies, including market-leading analytics, machine learning, and data visualization powered by exceptional content that is exclusive to LexisNexis.”
Deborah Schwarz, chief strategy officer and founder of LAC Group, a managed services business based in Los Angeles and New York, said Westlaw and LexisNexis are going head to head on offering analytical tools, such as those that help an attorney predict the outcome of a case, and are increasingly pushing into artificial intelligence technologies. One of the biggest differences between the two companies, she said, is that Westlaw has tended to build its own new products, while LexisNexis has purchased companies that are developing technologies.
Feit said Bloomberg has made efforts to take some market share for comprehensive legal analysis, but the main battle is between the two companies that have dominated the legal landscape for years.
“Lexis started to compete on price very recently and they’re doing fairly well at that,” he said. “So even though Westlaw is more popular, Lexis’s strength is its content.”
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