Mount Vernon Business Awaits Jobs Plan From White House

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A Mount Vernon manufacturer is looking to the nation’s capital to help boost its bottom line in 2010.

Jeld-Wen manufacturing operates a window plant in Mount Vernon and an interior door plant in Pataskala. Executive Vice President Ron Saxton says about 340 workers are currently employed at the two locations. Last week, Saxton traveled to the White House for President Obama’s jobs summit. He says he’s encouraged by what he heard. President Obama indicated that a proposed jobs plan would include incentives for the purchase and installation of energy efficient windows. Saxton says an existing tax credit for consumers who buy new windows and more insulation has already prompted him to add some manufacturing jobs in Mount Vernon.

“We have about 240 people working in that plant right now. And in 2008 we were averaging about 180. And so that’s a pretty substantial percentage increase.”

Saxton says more jobs could be added in Mount Vernon in 2010 if congress continues and possibly expands consumer tax credits for energy efficiency. While Saxton tends his small manufacturing business, democratic congressman Zack Space says Jeld Wen is an example of what Space calls the emerging “green energy” economy. Space says the so-called green economy is more than just efficeint windows and doors.

“Insulation manufacturers, solar panel manufacturers.”

Representative Space contends Jeld-Wen and other small manufacturers are at the front end of a business trend that could help fuel Ohio’s economy in the future. Space says the so-called green economy could help replace some of the auto and steel plants that served as Ohio economic staples in the past.

“Because I think what we’re seeing here is the beginning, the very beginning of a huge economic sector.”

But, Ohio State University Professor Mark Partridge is less sanguine about the future strength of employment linked to alternative energy and energy efficiencies. Patridge studies employment trends.

“Green energy jobs are really hard to pin down. Does this mean something like insulating homes is a green energy job or does it mean servicing windmills and wind turbines. In that sense, if you take a more narrow definition you’ll say alternative energy kinds of jobs. I would say that while Ohio has a lot of hopes perhaps in other areas its going to be really difficult to create alot of green energy jobs. They typically don’t employ a lot of workers. They’re typically…its going to take a long time to put that forward and in that sense I don’t see that as a plausible alternative for a way to move Ohio forward.”

In his most recent research, Partridge says Ohio’s political leaders will be the main determinant of future job growth.

“But I think what’s more important is to try to make Ohio the kind of place that expanding businesses want to come to Ohio. And that is, insure that we have effective government, insure that we have a good quality of life, insure that we provide a good environment for businesses that want to locate here and knowledge workers that want to locate here.”

Back at Jeld-Wen, executive Ron Saxton says state and federal government an help reverse Ohio’s job losses by providing what he calls a “kick-start” to the economy….green or otherwise…Saxton says once he adds jobs at his Mount Vernon plant….other jobs will follow.

“You know people have to bring components, then you have the trucks that move the windows around. You know the multiplier just keeps going.”

Tom Borgerding

WOSU News

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