LIMA — The numbers are in, and they show what Task Force LIMA has been advocating for years, that the U.S. Defense Department is responsible for a massive piece of the state’s economy and worth fighting for.
In Ohio, about 70,000 people are employed by the Defense Department or NASA, Mayor David Berger said Thursday at the monthly meeting of Task Force LIMA. Those jobs result in a $4 billion payroll and a $10 billion direct economic benefit.
By comparison, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the state’s largest private sector employer, with 48,600 employees, according to Ohio’s Development Services Agency.
Those numbers are from the accounting done by CBD Advisors, consultants hired a year ago by Dayton Defense Coalition with state funding to develop a statewide organized, assertive approach to seeking defense contracting work for Ohio.
“That’s news. It’s not something to be taken for granted,” said Berger, who co-chairs the task force centered on advocating for the Abrams tank program and Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. “We need to deliberately think about how to work with that and make sure it remains a vital part of our economy.”
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base alone is the state’s No. 4 employer, employing 29,600 civilians and 9,400 military personnel.
Before Dayton Defense began its work, the Lima task force members had written a white paper advocating for an organized approach and more leadership from the governor’s office on seeking economic development opportunities in defense contract work. The group had sent the paper to the governor’s office, Ohio economic development officials and the Ohio congressional delegation.
CBD Advisors is finished with its initial work, the inventory, and has been sharing that with economic development and community groups around the state. The group was supposed to visit Toledo before Lima, but postponed the Toledo meeting because of a low number committed to attend.
Berger said he made clear to CBD he wants a visit to Task Force LIMA in September, even if the Toledo presentation hasn’t happened yet.
As the consultants share the study, they have been holding the Lima group up as an example of how to organize and advocate for defense contract work, Berger said.
“This has been our call to action,” Berger said. “It is a huge economic engine and we need to recognize that do something to support it.”
As the task force works to support the JSMC it also is dealing with a shrinking labor force at the moment. The Pentagon has pulled back on tank work as it prepares for a newly designed Abrams battle tank. When members of the task force lobbied federal lawmakers and Pentagon officials in May, they met with the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment.
On Thursday, officials with that agency toured the JSMC and briefed the task force on assistance it can provide. The site and community most likely qualifies for economic assistance from job losses over the past three years. The agency also provided grants and job training in the 1990s when Lima suffered massive defense job losses at the JSMC, then known as the Lima Tank Plant, and other manufacturers with defense work that closed.
Defense jobs major economic engine in Ohio