Is History Repeating Itself in Dayton?

2011/01/06

Philosopher George Santayana is credited with the statement “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.  History is about to repeat itself here in Dayton, OH, and it may be ugly.

In August 2008, Forbes’ magazine published an article entitled Americas Fastest Dying Cities.  People went nuts.  How could Dayton be included with such cities as Detroit & Youngstown?  (Check out some basic facts here, according to Forbes in 2008.)  Sure, the economy is the main reason, but a basic business class would have also answered this question.

A fundamental rule of business & finance is diversity lessens risk.  Dayton didn’t diversify.  When General Motors (GM) was in its heyday, most of the local businesses fed off of GM – tool & die shops, metal fab places, machine shops, and the like.  The city & county didn’t do much to entice other types of businesses to the area, except for maybe military-related contractors.

When GM spun off Delphi in 1999, I personally believe that was when Dayton began its downward spiral.  The defining moment was when the GM closed Truck & Bus in Moraine.  (For you non-locals, Truck & Bus was the final assembly plant for a few models of SUVs & pick-ups.)  When the last truck rolled of the assembly line on December 23, 2008, many of the supporting business were already closed.

Enter Tech Town.  Some people seem to think technology will be the answer, but it will not be the cure-all to the area’s problems.  Hi-tech businesses look for employees with training in computers/IT, engineering, etc.  These are highly specialized fields that comprise a smaller portion of the employment base.  Therefore, employment will not be greatly affected.

I am not a great economist, and I don’t think technology is bad, but I hate to see officials making the same mistake twice – especially when a portion of the answer is as obvious as this.  Did GM not teach us anything?  With the emphasis on high technology, it appears as if Dayton is putting all of its eggs in one basket again.

Advertisements