After a long two years of no facility tours and limited in person meetings, this summer and early fall brimmed with activity. As much as Zoom bridged gaps during the darkest times, I missed seeing our members and walking around our fantastic facilities. Equally important are the connections we make with new legislators and new mayors when we gather in person.
Despite supply chain challenges, soaring inflation and workforce shortages, our members were still excited about the future and making capital plans to reflect that optimism. From new equipment to revamped delivery systems, everyone is pushing ahead. Company leaders often comment that the pandemic accelerated e-commerce and transportation planning ten years. That leap has created tremendous pressure and growth that members shared with officials.
The most helpful thing about a facility tour is the opportunity to “show” not “tell” elected officials how our industry is a vital part of Ohio’s economic fabric. Nearly 10,000 jobs statewide and $7.5 billion in annual economic impact in Ohio comes to life as we gather in Ripley, Wintersville, Columbus, Lima, Wadsworth, Zanesville and many other spots.
New legislators marveled at our members’ deep community ties, commitment to excellence in making and distributing the world’s most beloved, recognizable beverages and willingness to try new things. They sipped their way through conversations with warehouse managers, plant directors and local sales managers. They shook hands with drivers and tow motor operators in our distribution centers.
As I listened to new legislators talk about their priorities and love of community, I felt so proud that our members and their charitable works were important to their elected officials serving in Columbus or working in city halls. Every guest on a facility tour or mayor in an industry meeting smiled as they recalled a festival or camp or food pantry where our members were serving.
When talk turned to workforce development, as it inevitably does these days, legislators and new mayors contributed valuable suggestions for creative outreach to career centers, football coaches, community action agencies and more. In a state as diverse as Ohio, these local connections win the day. For example, we cannot solve CDL driver shortages with a single approach. We are chipping away at it with great support from legislators, state departments, local agencies and company ingenuity.
We have a few more tours to squeeze into this fall before Lame Duck legislative session. If you are a member hosting us—thank you for making time to showcase your company and our industry. If you are an elected official—thank you for making time to learn about our industry and meet the incredible, hard working folks who make Ohio a fantastic place to do business. And despite the miles I have put on my now mostly new car, I am so grateful to help connect these two groups in fun settings where we all come away with a renewed sense of optimism for business in Ohio.