Last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich paid a visit to Kent to help us celebrate the Grand Opening of Mac Trailer and the 250 new jobs Mac is adding at the Kent facility.
Thanks to my various positions in city government in Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio, I’ve had a chance to meet maybe a half dozen governors during my tenure. Regardless of their political persuasions, I’m almost always impressed by how well these seasoned politico’s work a room and a crowd — and Governor Kasich was no exception.
Governors that are really good at their job have that unique ability to reel you in with their speeches and help you forget wherever your political allegiance lies, sweeping you up in their messages.
Each time I’ve seen Governor Kasich speak I walked away thinking that he genuinely believes in his message, he wants the best for Ohio, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to do that. Its the doing that gets tricky and I don’t envy any governor who is pushing a platform of change. State politics can be a full contact sport.
But last Tuesday Governor Kasich got to step out of the fray for a couple of hours and turn the spotlight on Kent’s newest corporate resident, Mac Trailer — thanking them for choosing Ohio (and particularly choosing Kent) to expand their business.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be expected to say any welcoming remarks before the Governor took the stage so I prepared a few comments and showed up ready if they needed me. It turned out that I didn’t need to speak at the podium but I hate to waste a speech, so for anyone who gives a hoot, here’s what I would have said:
I want to thank everyone for being in Kent with us this morning.
The City staff is turning into regulars here at Mac Trailer – we’re here so much they’re thinking of issuing us company Id cards.
We helped Mac Trailer celebrate their first days in Kent, celebrate their first hires, celebrate the first truck to come off the Kent production line and now we’re here again to celebrate their official grand opening.
Some might argue that we just can’t turn down free food and ribbon cuttings — and I won’t say those folks are wrong, but the truth is we are extremely proud that Mac Trailer chose Kent to call home and we can’t think of any better way to thank them than to keep showing up to support them whenever they ask.
We’re happy to shamelessly promote Mac Trailer because of their leadership in the market and because it’s a great example of rallying around a great company to help close the deal.
We knew that Mac Trailer was a great fit for Kent from the start: the facility was exactly what they needed; their corporate leadership and employee base was a great match for Kent; and the location offered a great position in their market.
That’s why we reached out to them early on and went after them at full throttle.
Like so many things in life, the art of the deal (and the devil) is in the details. Our Economic Development Director, Dan Smith, just makes this look easy but landing Mac Trailer took fast action and collaboration — neither of which state and city agencies are historically known for — which is why we take such great pride in proving what we’re capable of as a City and a State.
This Mac Trailer project was starting hit its stride early on in Governor’s Kasich term so we were not sure what to expect or even who to contact with the administrative transition.
The good news was, all it took was one call to get the State ODOD wheels turning.
In an extremely short turn around time we had City Council and State ODOD commitments to partner in the financial package that we knew gave Mac Trailer what they needed to pull the trigger.
City Council and the State of Ohio delivered, the deal was done, and here we are celebrating 250 new jobs.
As the City Manager I lead the business of city government, and for the most part I get to stay outside the politics of whether you have a D or an R on your jersey.
I know that there are lots of pressures on governors to honor their home team but in the case of Mac Trailer I have to say that it was refreshing to see that the only thing that mattered was Team Kent and Mac Trailer.
I don’t know all of Governor Kasich’s policy positions but I do know that we share a passion to prove that government can be nimble, responsive and innovative when it comes to supporting companies who want to create new jobs.
Governor Kasich had just traveled up from Cincinnati, and despite the fact that we like to refer to Cleveland and Akron as suburbs of Kent, I realize that Kent is certainly smaller in proportion to these other cities but when it comes to jobs we are no less significant.
We’re proud of our region, and we’re proud to do our part in Kent to spur an economic recovery.
The bottom line is every job counts so I’ll tell this Governor the same thing we told his predecessor – Put Kent To Work for Ohio.
We’ve got great assets here – mine them, leverage them, exand them: Kent State University, Davey Tree, Smithers Oasis, Ametek Corporation, Alpha Micron, Kent Displays
These diverse Kent businesses share 2 things: 1)they are leaders in their respective industries; and 2) they call Kent home.
I’m delighted to be able to add Mac Trailer to that list.
I was asked during the lunch how it was that Kent has been lucky enough to land some great economic developmnet projects of late and in 30 seconds or less I explained that our City Council and the staff are committed to being a part of the solution, making strategic investments, and tackling tough issues head on.
Sounds like a bit simplistic but it’s a fair summary of what it takes for cities to beat the odds in a dismal economy. That and great partners like the State ODOD.