In this issue of Cincy Business, a panel of independent judges honors the best of the best Tristate manufacturers.

And while it's terrific to pay tribute to these 15 success stories of the 21st century, it's also relevant to put their accomplishments in perspective by remembering the industrial figures and living legends of the past "” and the factors that contributed to their success.
First, it's an historical certainty that many of our early manufacturers benefited by a mere accident of geography: the presence of the Ohio River. That should offer some dose of humility.

Port trade founded this city. The invention of the steam paddlewheeler, as well as construction of the Miami & Erie Canal that connected Cincinnati to the Great Lakes, propelled Cincinnati into the Top 10 cities in America by 1850. The city became known as Porkopolis, due to its status as the leading pork-packer in the world. The city once supplied half the world's pork supplies, including stocking all the ships in Queen Victoria's Royal Navy. A cast-off of pork-packing "” fat "” caused two guys named Procter and Gamble to rethink their fortunes and start a soap business.

All told, the last century offered plenty of opportunities for hard-working laborers to bring home the bacon. German immigrants, in particular, flocked to Over-the-Rhine and the Erie Canal (now Central Parkway).

As the Erie Canal and river traffic became less efficient, the rails took over. Even now, the city's manufacturing base is served by three different cargo railroad systems, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Conrail.

Rail and canal traffic, of course, eventually gave way to the Interstate highway system and, finally, the airways. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport closes the transit link for manufactured goods, allowing millions of pounds of cargo to be flown rapidly to all parts of the country and world. The airport also serves as the major U.S. hub for DHL Worldwide Express, which ships one million pounds of cargo from the airport daily.

vSixty percent of the U.S. population resides within one hour's flight time, meaning a sizable potential consumer base from which to market the region's manufactured goods. Coupled with a pro-business environment, a workforce that leads the nation in productivity and an abundance of low-cost available land, little wonder the manufacturing sector thrives.

Cincinnati actually ranks sixth in America for the number of manufacturing jobs. Manufacturers produce anything from fiberglass to burlap bags, plastics to eyeglass lens. Other items and goods produced include aircraft engines, auto parts, valves, alcoholic beverages, playing cards, cans, metalworking, steel, mattresses, robotics, printing, and more. Processes here include molding, fabricating, grinding, laminating, welding, tooling and other precision machine operations.

The city that bred the Crosley Corporation manufacturing juggernaut "” cars, radios, kitchen appliances and such "” in the last century is primed for development in the coming century.

Ironically, we've returned full circle to the Ohio River. The Port of Cincinnati is currently America's fifth largest inland port, with 52 million pounds of domestic cargo transported annually through the waterway system.

Whether it be by water, air, rail or roadway, the Tristate is feeding its manufactured goods to the world. That's a success story with which no one can argue.