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We should have seen NCR’s going coming

The National Cash Register Company has been an icon of Dayton for over a century. It is unconscionable that the company allowed itself to be seduced into moving to Atlanta, Georgia without a word to Ohio or Dayton officials until ‘the fix was in.’ But it almost happened before...

In 2003, I was given the opportunity to spend an entire day in the NCR archives in downtown Dayton for a story on Oakwood’s ties to NCR. Stored in this large room on the third floor of the Montgomery County Historical Society building on Jefferson Street were dozens of sleek maple file drawers that contained thousands of blueprints, schematics and patent drawings of every conceivable aspect of NCR’s engineering and inventive achievements over 100-plus years. I opened drawer after drawer and pored over these incredible documents and drawings, amazed at the raw history each page revealed. Then I came to one series of files that contained newspaper clippings from the Dayton Journal, The Dayton Daily News, the Journal Herald and a number of other newspapers from the area and other parts of the country.

One particular series of clippings came from the Dayton Journal and told the tale of an announcement by John H. Patterson that he was pulling up stakes and moving NCR out of town to another town that appreciated his industrial innovations more. I
remember the Dayton Journal stories depicting the end of the world for Dayton and vicinity at the prospect of such a move. At the time, NCR employed about 18,000 people and was basically the 700-pound industrial gorilla in the area. The city fathers were having paroxysms of panic in the wake of Patterson’s announcement. Whatever was offered to Mr. Patterson to placate him and induce him not to move out after all, I could never glean a clue. NCR stayed on to be an institution of Dayton for another 80-plus years.

What induced NCR to move to a suburb of Atlanta was an entirely different animal. NCR was basically bought – and it wasn’t even for sale. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, NCR received almost $100 million from the state of Georgia to abandon Dayton and move down there, not to mention grant money and tax abatements and one heck of a sell job. But one has to go back about 25 years to realize why over a dozen Fortune 500 companies have pulled up stakes in other cities and made Atlanta their new home office.

During the Reagan years, Atlanta’s city administration made the move to craft policies that were extremely business-friendly, in fact they attempted to create one of the best business environments in the world. Tax abatements, government grants, abolishing paid parking throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, a great location and a very aggressive development team that went to other cities and attempted to lure companies old and new to the sprawling maw that is modern-day Atlanta. It has, unfortunately for us and other cities that have said adieu to benchmark businesses, worked very well.

According to the Dayton Business Journal, Georgia officials had been talking with NCR officials for at least two years. We should have seen the proverbial writing on the wall but were sticking our heads in the equally proverbial sand. The donation of the Wright Brothers’ Hawthorn Hill back to the Wright family; the sale of the Sugar Camp property and soccer fields; the re-opening of Old River under the auspices of Dayton History; the sale of the office building on Far Hills to the Dayton Daily News - even the purchase and demolition of the Trace Home on Far Hills Avenue – should have indicated that a major divestiture of assets was underway and someone was fixing to walk away.

We should have seen it coming and what Gov. Strickland offered in the way of incentives to stay was way too little and way, way too late. Maybe we need to adopt more anticipatory and business-friendly policies here. We’ve tried the welfare state model, let’s try something else.

Lance Winkler
Editor, The Oakwood Register

Rumors of school policy changes overheard

My family moved to Oakwood for the schools. The community is nice, but we wanted our children to have the best teachers and education possible. We were willing to give up some extra things in life in order to achieve this goal. We left Dayton Public Schools because of the quality of education and the educators that were there. Local parochial schools cost quite a bit of money for a mediocre education at best. So we moved into Oakwood. We love the area. The people and the community welcomed us with open arms.

Now it is becoming more and more obvious we might have made a misguided choice. Comments from representatives from the school administration are coming out that I find troubling. Comments concerning curriculum and personal bias made by school board members against targeted teachers. The most recent comment is that Oakwood City Schools are no longer hiring the most qualified teachers. They are hiring the cheapest. The reasons used are that there is no money for qualified teachers, Gov. Strickland’s plan is too costly, the student numbers are dropping and the economy is troubled. Sounds like a bunch of excuses and not solutions.

While participating in the recent Care Walk I overheard a conversation between two people who were discussing this and a simple solution was brought up. It was to open enrollment to the surrounding districts and charge an out of district fee for tuition to make up any shortfall. Problem solved, but I am sure there are “reasons” why this is not an option. Too simple. Too easy. Too much paperwork. If the district is in such dire financial straits that they can’t afford to hire the most qualified teachers, why haven’t we heard more?

How can an Administration and School Board allow the quality of the education for our children to be compromised? Why as a community are we turning a blind eye to that fact that our schools today are the best in area, but won’t they remain that way in the future due to administrative decisions? At one time the schools in Dayton were counted among the best in the state. Where are Dayton’s schools ranked now? Have we learned nothing from the decisions made there? Maybe I am over reacting.

Maybe the cheapest teachers will do a great job teaching, after all everybody needs a chance. Maybe Oakwood doesn’t need Highly Qualified Teachers. I’d like my children to be taught by one, wouldn’t you? Where do we go to find them?

Carlos Dietz




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June 9, 2009
Volume 18, No. 23

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'round town

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