Economy polishing rust off Ohio’s belt

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Economy polishing rust off Ohio’s belt

The Columbus Dispatch — Just about everybody seems to know what “the Rust Belt” means and exactly where it is located. Like the British reporter last week who wrote that President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were “heading into America’s Rust Belt” to see a basketball game in Dayton.

But three decades after Ohio and the upper Midwest earned the nickname because of their seemingly endless stretches of abandoned and crumbling factories, there are signs — just a few signs — that the rust might be starting to peel.

Private business investment in Ohio has nearly doubled during the past three years.  The automotive industry is sizzling, fueled in large part by a massive federal bailout, cost restructuring and demand by consumers to replace their aging cars.

To the east of I-71, the development of shale gas could add nearly $5 billion to the state’s gross domestic product by 2014, prompting one economist to call it “a real game-changer for Ohio.”

The state’s unemployment rate during the past year has been consistently below the national average — for the first time in a decade — in part because the state economy has diversified.

“If we had them go into bankruptcy and waited for private financing, nobody would have bought a GM or a Chrysler,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “I think manufacturing is helping lead the recovery.”

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