I experienced hopeful signs of economic recovery this week. I spent Monday and Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio. I visited several manufacturing companies who do business in the automotive, oil & gas, and aerospace industries. Everyone I visited had experienced a pickup in business since the first of the year.  It was a fruitful benchmarking trip. Ohio was hit pretty hard by the recession and a full recovery is going to take a long while. The state’s exposure to the automotive and other manufacturing industries left it vulnerable to the economic collapse.

The number of stimulus related construction projects that I saw was stunning. I’m not a huge fan of building roads to create jobs. Laying more asphalt isn’t the long-term solution, but the current administration seems to think that pumping lots of dollars into highway repair projects is the way to go. Ohio has its fair share of highways and it seemed as if there was a crane or excavator every quarter-mile.

On Monday, I had lunch at Smitty’s Place in Elyria. As a die-hard vegan, I’m not really a burger joint guy, but I still enjoyed the visit and had a veggie sandwich dry and without cheese. The waitress couldn’t figure me out. She told me the sauce was the key to the sandwich, but I told her not to worry, I was fine. Smitty’s is still basking in the glow of a visit by President Obama in January. Prior to visiting the restaurant, he was at one of the factories that I toured. The CEO was my lunch time host. It was fairly random how the President ended up in Elyria at these two places, but it was great public relations for both businesses.

I felt right at home in industrial Ohio. There were fewer hills and trees, but just as many factories as Connecticut.

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