Tuesday, January 15, 2013


It was an interesting evening at Canton City Council's regular meeting last night.

It was a night that Canton was both bragging about its job production and apparently should hold its head in shame in terms of how it recently treated one of its longest standing job producing companies.  And, to boot, a manufacturing company.  A vanishing breed across America, no?

Immediately prior to the meeting, the SCPR had upwards of a 30 minute conversation with Mayor William J. Healy, II.

Conversation?  About what?

A number of items, but a main one was Hizzhonor ticking off success after success in Canton slowly but surely building up the city job base.

The crown jewel of Healy's chortling, of course. is the city having attracted VXI and some 1,000 jobs to downtown about year ago or so.  He says that the number will increase to 1,500 or so soon.

But he seemed equally well taken with a number of firms settling in the city bring clusters of a couple dozen jobs or so some of which are engineering related and high paying.

He stands by his proclamation of last year's State of the City address in which he billed Canton of the future as being "The Utica Capital."

Healy, of course, as readers of the SCPR well know has a MBA from the New York University Stern School of Business.  And one of the benefits to Cantonians of his educational achievements is his market prowess.  Hence, "The Utica Capital" as a marketing tool to attract new jobs to Canton.

And, Healy says, his plan is working.  "The oil and gas industry loves Canton," he says.  Moreover, notwithstanding that there has been a lot of controversy at the hand of area environmentalists at council meetings of at any thing that smacks of being pro-fracking of Stark County/Canton based Utica/Marcellus shale encased oil and gas deposits, the mayor is confident that his public relations effort has convinced the industry that Canton is indeed oil and gas friendly.

However, he is quick to add that he and council will be quick to protect the environment.

Obviously, Healy and The Report believes Canton City Council view as their job number one as being to attract new jobs to Canton and, of course, to maintain existing jobs.

So it was a surprise to the SCPR when a ruckus of sorts developed at the end of last night's meeting with a concern/question expressed by Ward 9 Councilman Frank Morris about Canton's treatment of long time Canton corporate citizen Union Metal (located in Canton since 1906).

Morris related to council and the administration a troubling visit he had with Union Metal officials last Thursday.

Here is a must see video of the exchange between Morris, Safety Director Ream, Mayor Healy and Council President Alan Schulman.

First, he recited the importance of Union Metal (America's second largest manufacturer of light poles) to Canton in detailing the number of jobs that the company brings to the city, to wit:
  • 375 good paying union jobs,
  • created 50 jobs in 2011, and
  • with plans to expand
Second, he described a recent project whereby Union Metal endeavored to improve the lighting of a back lot of the company's manufacturing facilities along Harrisburg Avenue.

In the course of his presentation, Morris complained that:
  • Canton's building department made Union Metal jump through hoops on the project,
  • all Union Metal wants is to be respected as much as the Timken Company is with Canton city officials,
The ninth ward councilman implied that the Union Metal folks were "bitter" at how they had been treated by Canton building department officials and he wanted to know whether or not Healy administration officials had contacted Union Metal officialdom to soothe ruffled feathers.

Safety Director Ream to the lead in responding to Morris who replied that:
  • Union Metal is being treated no different than Timken,
  • it would be up to council to change the city ordinance that caused the problem on the project,
  • the building department is going to initiate contact, but that the administration had not and had no plans to be in touch,
Morris' response:
  • Union Metal was recently bought out by a Texas company recently and he would not want to see Canton lose jobs over ruffled feelings, and,
  • the Healy administration should send Ream or the mayor himself down to Union Metal to patch up the city's relationship with the company
Mayor Healy gets in on the conversation, he says:
  • that he will, as requested by Morris, make contact with the top folks at Union Metal and seek to mollify them,
  • but seemingly does not accept that the problem was caused by an insensitive building department bureaucracy rather by the existence of council imposed standards to ensure "the safety and quality of the work and local labor."
  • it is likely a case that Union Metal wants to bring it own contractor in and not hire a local contractor as required by the relevant Canton city ordinance,
 Morris' response:
  • Healy has it wrong on his supposition that Union Metal was trying to avoid a local contractor inasmuch as the company has an ongoing relationship with a Canton-based electrical contractor,
At this point, Council President Alan Schulman jumps into the conversation, to wit:
  • "it does not make any sense to annoy a major employer in [the Canton] community," and 
  • that someone in the building department should have notified the Healy administration prior to the company having related its irritation at how it was being treated Canton bureaucracy when Councilman Morris appeared at company facilities last Thursday,
Of camera, Councilman Morris told the SCPR that the contractor issue was not the only annoyance experienced by Union Metal personnel that there was a string of three or so "re-do this, re-do that, and so forth" items that preceded the "hire a local contractor" issue.

In short, Morris agreed with yours truly's characterizing of the testy relationship as being "a pissing contest."

So the SCPR's take is that to be consistent with the administration's zealous pursuit of jobs, Mayor Healy should have been on the telephone with Union Metal officials as soon as they are answering the phones today setting up a meeting wherein the administration must satisfy them that:
  • the company is appreciated as much as The Timken Company,
  • the administration wants to hear about any difficulties experienced with the city's bureaucracy, and
  • will act to correct communication problems.
One of the common complaints that Democrats get is that they are too hep on regulation overall and that their romancing of regulation of business in particular leads to job loss in America.

And interestingly enough, Ream and Healy in the Union Metal flap seem to side with the Republicans.

Both appear to offer as a possible remedy to the problem:  "Council can undo the regulation in question."



It was an interesting evening at Canton City Council's regular meeting last night.

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