Deadline Now: Michael C. Carroll

Deadline Now: Michael C. Carroll

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

Five years ago, the U.S. economy cascaded into the deepest recession since World War II. Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan were particularly hard hit. While things are better now, the economy will never again look like it did 10 or 20 years ago. How do we rebuild prosperity in our region? Are our leaders making the right decisions? 

Michael C. Carroll, Director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University, is this week's guest. Dr. Carroll has devoted his entire professional life to studying the economy.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

If you are over thirty and grew up in this area, you’ve lived through boom-and-bust cycles all your life. Toledo and Detroit and the corridor in between have been heavily tied to the auto industry.

And when times get tough, one of the easiest purchases to postpone has always been a new car. Cyclical recessions were the rule for more than half a century following the Second World War.

Then something different started to happen. The nature of jobs and the workforce changed. The auto industry itself changed.

As everyone knows, the domestic auto industry went through a near-death experience in 2008. Had Chrysler and General Motors been allowed to topple into uncushioned bankruptcy, we might have been looking at an economy approximating the Great Depression.

That didn’t happen, but the Great Recession was bad enough. The auto companies survived, and are again profitable. But they are far smaller than they were. General Motors has fewer blue collar workers in the entire nation today than it did in the mid-Michigan town of Flint alone, back in 1979. One thing is clear. The domestic auto industry will never again be a huge employer of unskilled workers at very high wages. Our economy has changed, and we -- Toledo, the region, all of us -- need to change with it.

There are still people who hope that somebody will come in and build a chain of big-box factories and put us all back to work. It isn’t going to happen. There are still parents who think their kids don’t need to go to college, who think they are destined to be, as one parent I know said, “a shop rat like me.” Except the shops are disappearing, moving to Mexico or using machines.

We need to become a more entrepreneurial culture, and to work not only hard but smart, and take charge of our own destinies.

Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The World is Flat.“ told me that he told his children, “My generation had to find a job when we got out of school. You will have to create your jobs. “

There’s a lot of truth in that, and that’s something hard and scary. But also, ultimately rewarding. The guys who created Owens Illinois and Jeep and Libbey Glass thought that way. 

Now, it is our generation’s turn.