Monday, December 26, 2011


Most of you have probably noticed the sidebar with all the articles about Huber Heights, Ohio; the Dayton suburb which is  my hometown.  There is a rather remarkable article there telling about a new company which took over and remodeled a vacant industrial building to found a new manufacturing company.  And what is truly jaw-dropping is that in hurting, mass unemployment suffering Ohio they are having trouble finding qualified machinists, etc. 

Now, there is a really great site for Dayton history research called Dayton History Books Online (DHBO).  The site is administered by Curt Dalton and is quite comprehensive. One component of the site is called the "Dayton Memories Blog"; a forum where folks can share their memories to times past in Dayton and/or ask questions of the membership.  

There are many of us who bemoan the state that the City of Dayton has fallen into. However, whenever we start talking about what to do about it, the forum falls into squabbling, and Curt has had to delete entire threads. So I'm taking MY stand on MY blog (where it belongs) and keeping it OFF DHBO (where it doesn't). However if you want to get an idea of what Dayton once was just before the place started falling apart (or if you want to know just about anything about the history of Dayton and the Miami Valley) DHBO is an excellent place to get the information. 

Now, down to brass tacks.

Huber Heights was not always the City of Huber Heights. Prior to 1981 it was the name of a huge tract of all-brick homes taking up the lion's share of what was then Wayne Township, Ohio.  Almost as soon as Huber Heights was developed, the City of Dayton began an effort to annex it and grab the property and income taxes. The citizens of Wayne Township waged a 20-year battle to beat back the annexation. Finally and under the guidance of Charles Monita Wayne Township incorporated as the City of Huber Heights.  

On my last trip to Dayton back in 2008, I beheld jaw-dropping desolation.  I have described the area around North Main and Helena as "Something (Zap Comix artist) R. Crumb might have drawn" and I was and am not exaggerating. Crumb is well known for his surreal and vaguely brooding city scenes. Dayton made me glad of a firearm in my waistband. 

Dayton has scads of empty former factories and businesses. Lots of them are more strategically situated as to access to supply lines, etc. than this building that caught the attention of these intrepid Huber entrepreneurs. The question is, what happened and why.

I well remember dire discussions about the layoffs and closures at Chrysler Airtemp and Frigidaire back in the late 60s and early 70s. Most of us kids had at least one friend in our circle whose dad had been laid off or was unemployed. The Dayton custom of cutting a round pizza into bite-sized squares was a blessing, as it made sharing easier and if one of our impoverished pals needed a bite, not removing a whole big section of pizza at once let him look and feel like less of a moocher.  I was fortunate enough to have a father who was a senior engineer at NCR and others of my friends had dads who were either officers or high-level NCOs at Wright-Patterson AFB. 

One guy in my circle was the son of a laid-off drill press operator who had flat given up. The father drank most of his unemployment check and on Sunday mornings the family car often wound up parked halfway in the front yard, and my pal would get up and park it straight in the driveway before the neighbors woke up and started talking.  Fortunately he was able to get a job part-time washing dishes. He got fed free at the restaurant, but most of the money he slipped to his mom to pay the bills.  Still, enough of us were well-off enough to afford to chip in and let him have a good time with us (and he had connections for some darn good marijuana, too).  There were always high hopes that the ant would move the rubber-tree plant and the crisis would pass and the factories would start hiring again.

But in 2008, Chrysler closed its last Miami Valley facility.         And last year, NCR - which had once been the premier industry in Dayton but which had withered to a shadow of its former greatness - NCR, the former National Cash Register Company; whose founder John Patterson single-handedly saved Dayton from being wiped from the Earth during and after the 1913 flood - pulled completely out of Dayton and re-located to Atlanta.  ATLANTA!

Rike's Department Stores is dead.  Elder-Beerman is still around, but its Dayton stores are closed (But the one located in Huber Heights continues to thrive). There are a short ton of empty buildings and rents and prices are dirt-cheap. But a couple of guys who want to start an industrial manufacturing business drive right through Dayton and pick a building in the City of Huber Heights. What's the explanation?  

In a nutshell, Huber Heights was conceived to be "business friendly".  The slogan of the City is "Come Grow With Us!", and very bluntly they do not look at corporations as cows to be milked for all the money that can be gotten out of them, but rather as fellow citizens and neighbors.  

On the other hand, Dayton's message to those who would base a manufacturing (or any other kind of) business is: "Welcome to Dayton. Now Stand and Deliver!" The city of Dayton has become liberal Democrat to the point of absurdity, and their efforts to lure companies into their tax-trap have been patently cheesy and ridiculous.

 A few years ago Dayton had a mayor who wore custom-made glasses with one square lens and one round lens "to represent that Dayton is well-rounded and you can get a square deal".   I hardly know where to begin in describing the utter vacuity of that statement, and I can hardly imagine how absolutely ridiculous those specs must have made her look.  If I were looking to locate a business in Southwest Central Ohio I would have run screaming from Dayton, and I imagine many have. 

Dayton now sees business primarily as a source of revenue to fuel the government, which will then re-distribute the confiscated wealth to the deserving.  Huber Heights sees business primarily as an employer of citizens, and the primary and best creator and distributor of wealth. And Huber Heights prospers as Dayton slips further into decay.  

I am not here saying that Huber Heights is an oasis of plenty in a desert of desperation. The two main retail centers, Huber Center and Marian Meadows, were on my last visit raddled with shops that had died young and a few that were stillborn.  But there were more than a few that are not just hanging on but thriving.  The leaders and authorities in Huber are hell-bent on attracting as much business to the city as possible and in allowing these businesses to thrive.   

Dayton, on the other hand, is looking to entrap slaves.  I cannot imagine what Huber would look like today if Dayton had successfully annexed Wayne Township. Or more accurately, I CAN imagine it, but I try like hell not to. 

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