Dayton, Ohio has a rich history in manufacturing and innovation. The Wright Brothers invented and manufactured the world’s first piloted aircraft in Dayton, and Dayton is also the the birthplace of the world’s first cash register (NCR). Dayton eventually boomed as a result of these and many other innovations. However, as the decades-long decline in domestic manufacturing capacity began in 1990, the number of Midwest manufacturing jobs shrank by 1.1 million (21.2 percent), and Dayton steadily became an increasingly gloomy place.
Today, however, locals know that a turnaround in Dayton has been underway for several years, and the old gloom is increasingly being replaced by new optimism and energy. Preliminary federal survey data is now confirming this, with an almost unprecedented surge in local employment now being reported by the BLS.
August Sees 1,600 New Jobs
According to seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers in the Dayton metro area added 1,600 new jobs in August, marking a 0.4% monthly increase in local payrolls, or approximately 5% on an annual basis.
Six Consecutive Months of Job Growth
The region’s job market has been on an impressive winning streak, with local employment expanding for six consecutive months. Such a solid performance has been rarely matched over the past three decades, which were years of almost continual decline. During this time, Dayton’s jobs were being moved overseas, and major manufacturing employers like GM, Delphi, and NCR left the region.
2023 Will be a Record Year for Job Creation in Dayton
The new BLS data shows that the Dayton area economy is finally recovering, and the recovery seems to have legs. The Dayton metro area, comprising Montgomery, Greene, and Miami counties, has lost jobs in only one month this year (1,200 jobs lost in February). More important, through the full nine months of this year ending in September, the Dayton area experienced a net gain of 8,400 jobs. This is a record not seen since 1990, which is the year that the BLS began tracking this data.
The only year that comes close is 1994, when the metro area experienced 7,400 net new job gains through August. In addition, job growth in Dayton appears to be accelerating. In the first eight months of 2021, the Dayton region added 4,300 net jobs. During the same eight month stretch in 2022, Dayton added 4,600 new jobs.
Major Investments Will Fuel Future Growth
Historically significant future investments in the Dayton area have been announced by major corporations recently, including publicly-traded Joby Aviation (NYSE: JOBY), which is following in the the Wright Brothers’ footsteps. The company just announced plans to invest $500 million in a new Dayton factory to manufacture electric urban aircraft (some call these vehicles “flying cars”). The new factory will employ 2,000 people. The 140-acre site near the Dayton Airport was chosen because it has enough land to expand to two million square feet of manufacturing space over time. The plan is historic. Manufacturing this kind of aircraft on this scale has never been attempted anywhere, Joby and state officials said.
Last month, Amazon opened a massive new fulfillment center in Montgomery County adjacent to the Dayton Airport that will employ another 2,000 people. Separately, Amazon Prime Air has also invested $1.5 billion in a new national air freight hub in Cincinnati, an hour south of Dayton, that will be the home of 100 freight aircraft and employ 2,000 people, including pilots, mechanics and management personnel.
In addition, Honda and LG Electronics have started construction on a new $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant approximately 30 miles southeast of Dayton in Fayette County. Investment in the new plant will eventually reach $4.4 billion, and it is expected to employ approximately 2,200 people when complete in 2025.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Anchors This Growth
When we first began investing in the Cincinnati/Dayton region, Wright-Patterson’s substantial economic influence on the Dayton area required careful due diligence. It was and still is the largest single-site employer in the State of Ohio with lots of high paying jobs requiring advanced levels of STEM education, but the national Base Realignment and Closure Act (“BRAC”) had just been signed into law. The law failed to identify which bases would be realigned and/or closed, so Wright-Patterson was potentially at risk for closure.
If Wright-Patterson was closed as a result of BRAC, it’s closure would devastate the Dayton area economy. During our research, however, we learned that “Wright-Patt” is one of the largest, most diverse, and organizationally complex bases in the Air Force, and as one expert told us “you would have to shut down the entire United States Air Force before you could shut down Wright-Patt.”
Indeed, Wright Patterson was actually a beneficiary of the BRAC process. Several USAF missions were consolidated into Wright-Patterson AFB, and the base has since grown from 19,000 employees before BRAC to almost 35,000 employees today. More importantly, the base is the headquarters for several critical air force missions, including the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Materiel Command. These missions were part of the reason why Joby chose the Dayton region for its new factory, and Joby has reportedly worked closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory as it developed its aircraft.
Dayton’s Future is Promising
Dayton’s turnaround over the past several years has been impressive. Local leaders remain focused on leveraging existing strengths like Wright-Patterson AFB to attract new investments by major and innovative employers that will attract talent from all over the country. Dayton’s job market is not just “sizzling” right now; it’s shaping a brighter future for the entire region.