Foreclosures during the Great Recession added to thousands of blighted properties in Columbus. But, a state program helped fund demolition of many of those houses and apartment units.
Columbus Castings On South Side To Hire 550 Workers
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The struggling South Side of Columbus is getting a major boost. After several down years, the neighborhood’s long time major employer has announced it plans to nearly double its workforce.
Longtime residents have fond memories of a vibrant South Side neighborhood. But nostalgia gives way to a different, more recent picture of the city’s south end: boarded up homes, crime, high poverty and unemployment rates.
Three years ago, more than a fifth of local residents were out of work.
But luck seems to be changing for the area.
“The southern gateway is coming back,” Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman exclaimed.
Coleman attended a groundbreaking ceremony at what will become the Reeb Avenue Center. In addition to social and educational services, the facility will serve as a job training site.
“To help train the folks who are going to take the jobs right down the street,” he said.
Right down the street at Columbus Castings, the largest U.S. steel foundry. The foundry melts recycled steel to make rail car parts.
Over the years, the company has had its ups and downs. Company chairman Joseph Haviv said six years ago, during the recession, his company was on the edge.
“We lost, overnight, 80 percent of our business in sales. If anybody knows anything about business, they’ll tell you, if you lose 20 to 30 [percent] you don’t survive,” Haviv said. “My guideline was very precise. We won’t shut down.”
They did not shut down and now it’s growing. Demand for rail cars is rising and that’s welcome news for Columbus Castings. The company plans to hire 550 new workers.
Haviv said the company’s hiring will focus on South Side neighbors and veterans.
“Everything happens because of will and skill. We know we have to build the skill. It’s a question of what the will is,” Haviv said. “If they want to improve themselves, we want to be a good home for them.”
The jobs will pay between $13 and $26 an hour plus benefits.
Debera Diggs lives and works on the South Side. Diggs said the jobs will provide stability for many local residents.
“To be able to offer your children opportunities that you may not have been able to envision at any point in time before. To be able to maybe have a decent car to get back and forth to work and not worry about public transportation,” Diggs said. “To be able to pay your bills when they’re due and not have to depend on other social service programs to supplement that.”
Longtime South Side resident Robert Henry said he hopes the new job opportunities will reduce neighborhood crime.
“Since the job market went south so to speak, the crime has kind of skyrocketed.”
Another longtime South Side resident Ramona Harris said, anecdotally, she’s noticed a drop in crime. She attributes it to area development.
Harris said she thinks the new jobs will help boost home values.
“The people will have a better aspect of what it takes to get up and get going and improve the property values,” she said. “And [the residents] have more pride than I’ve seen in all the years that I’ve been here which has been since 1997.”
Columbus Castings’ Joseph Haviv expects hiring to begin sometime early next year.