Tweny years ago, the announcement of a $20 million to $100 million capital improvements project at a manufacturer would likely include news of 100 to 200 new jobs being created.
That's no longer the case.
Today, such news is more about job retention.
We were reminded of that last week when Husky Energy announced it will invest $300 million into updgrades at the Lima Refinery. Subcontractors will be hired to modify the coker and processing units so the plant has the flexibility of refining heavy crude along with the light crude it currently manufactures. However, when the work is complete in 2017, Lima Refinery employment will remain around 440 employees.
It's good news, just in a different way.
“It plays into that desire to remain competitive,” Lima General Manager Roy Warnock said. “It's all about flexibility, and different kinds of flexibility — the different products we make, and when you move outside the gate, the different markets you can access.”
Investments like this are becoming more critical for communities trying to maintain a strong industrial base. In Lima's case, the Husky project helps ensure the long-term financial health and usefulness of the 127-year-old refinery. Since Husky purchased the plant in 2007, it has made nearly $1 billion in infrastructure improvement.
The glory days of luring new manufacturers that bring hundreds of jobs to a community are gone. Only 520,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Today it's more about the jobs we keep — not about the ones we gain — that continue to offer Lima hope of retaining its strong industrial base.