Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick
Gov. Ted Strickland outlines his “Energy, Jobs and Progress Plan” during a Jan. 25 visit to Stanley Electric in London.
|Emily Hale, an 11-year employee of Stanley Electric and a resident of London, makes sure a completed Honda Accord tail light has all its components and no defects.|
|Madison County Commissioner Bob Hackett expresses support of the governor’s plan.
|London Mayor David Eades (left) greets Gov. Strickland.|
American carmakers are struggling, which means companies that make parts for those cars are struggling and, therefore, looking to foreign car makers as potential new clients.
This is one reason the leaders of Stanley Electric, a maker of lighting components for Honda and Nissan vehicles, were particularly interested in what Gov. Ted Strickland had to say when he visited the London company on Jan. 25 to talk about his “Energy, Jobs and Progress Plan.”
The governor’s plan aims to protect businesses and consumers by ensuring that electricity rates are affordable and predictable and to create new jobs through investments in advanced energy technology.
“Utilities are a significant portion of our operating expenses. They increase by 3 to 7 percent each year,” said Brian Boldman, Stanley Electric’s plant manager and director.
Those costs are sometimes compounded by unexpected fees. As an example, Boldman said the plant’s electricity supplier, First Energy/Ohio Edison, announced in January that to cover its increased operating costs it would be increasing Stanley Electric’s rates by 5 percent in the form of a rider for electricity generation. The increase went into effect immediately and will cost Stanley Electric an additional $170,000 to $200,000 this year, Boldman said.
“The governor’s bill would allow us to better predict our (electricity) cost and know what to plan for,” he said.
As more manufacturing companies compete for Stanley Electric’s niche market, the company is looking for ways to become more efficient. Part of the solution is a 300,000 square-foot expansion that will allow for more automation and a more efficient configuration of assembly lines. The expansion, set to be finished in February 2009, will involve installation of new equipment, much of which will run on electricity, Boldman said.
Each day, Stanley Electric ships 100,000 com-ponents to Honda plants in Marysville, East Liberty, Alabama, Mexico and Canada, and to Nissan in Tennessee. That’s enough lighting products to outfit 7,500 cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Stanley Electric employs 700 full-time and 140 temporary associates, running three shifts for molding and coating and two shifts for assembly. The plant is located at 420 E. High St. in London.
The Governor’s Plan
Strickland’s visit to Stanley Electric was one of many trips he has made in recent months to assess the economic health of businesses large and small in Ohio.
“I’m increasingly proud of what the economy of this state is,” Strickland said, noting that a big part of that economy relates to the auto industry. Ohio ranks first in the U.S. in the production of car components and second in the production of cars.
“We cannot give up—we will not give up—on manufacturing in Ohio,” he said.
The governor pointed to Stanley Electric as a model company he would like to replicate for other towns in Ohio. Following a tour of the plant, he said he was impressed by the company’s high number of long-term employees and the clean work environment, and called the products the company makes “works of art.”
Strickland said he knows the fiscal success of companies like Stanley Electric depends, in part, on a reliable, affordable and predictable supply of electricity. With the current regulatory system for electricity due to expire at the end of 2008, Strickland put together the “Energy, Jobs and Progress Plan” (Senate Bill 221) to address this issue.
The plan calls for a “hybrid approach” to electricity regulation. It includes a market-based pricing option that would go into effect when a competitive market develops. When a competitive market doesn’t exist, as is the case with Stanley Electric which does not have a choice of electricity providers, constraints would be placed on the utility companies.
Strickland said he is proposing this middle-ground approach because he has seen deregulation cause companies to close in Maryland, where electricity rates went up 72 percent, and in Illinois where rates went up 50 percent.
“I’m not trying to make the utility companies the bad guys. They have a responsibility to get the best return on investment for their companies,” Strickland said. “But I also have a responsibility to job-producing industries of our state.”
In addition to regulation, the governor’s “Energy, Jobs and Progress Plan” aims to attract energy jobs to Ohio. It requires that by 2025 at least 25 percent of the electricity sold in the state be generated from advanced energy technology, and no less than half of that advanced energy be created in Ohio. The plan also calls for modernization of Ohio’s energy infrastructure and the empowerment of residential consumers to demand greater efficiency, transparency and service from their utility companies.
Strickland’s plan received unanimous bipartisan support in the Ohio Senate. The bill is now working its way through the Ohio House, where the governor said it has lingered too long.
“I wanted this plan in place before the end of last year,” he said.