U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, stressed business incubation, investment in manufacturing and investment in the future when he delivered the keynote speech at the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs' economic-growth strategies conference in Athens on Wednesday.

The conference, called "Positioning Appalachia: Economic Growth Strategies for Success," was attended by numerous area elected officials, leaders and business people.

Brown was introduced by Democratic political strategist and Athens native David Wilhelm, who referred to the senator from Lorain as a "true capitalist."

Wilhelm explained that this is so because Brown advocates for economic development that leads to success for Americans at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum.

For his part, Brown said it was embarrassing for him to see the debate in Washington over the past several weeks focused on something it didn't need to be focused on.

"Not on budgets, it needed to be on budgets and deficit reductions, but mostly it needs to be on jobs," he said. "There are things we need to do. We need to do an infrastructure (reinvestment) bank. We need to enforce trade rules better than we do. We need to work with small businesses. We need to do 'buy America,' when we're spending tax dollars."

Brown spoke about the importance of manufacturing, pointing out that Ohio is the third leading manufacturing state in the country behind the population-rich states of Texas and California.

"We make things," he said. "We make things in southeast Ohio. We are second in the country in solar manufacturing."

He praised Athens County for its business incubation programs.

"You can take a tour of this state and you see that when we come out of this recession — finally really do come out of it, not just statistically come out of it — I think you'll see this state in much better position than we were 30 years ago when we came out of the recession in the 1980s," he said.

He said that while Ohio has been a big hub for traditional manufacturing, the state now needs to also lead the nation when it comes to new technology manufacturing such as clean energy and aerospace technology, and food processing.

"There's real opportunity there that we need to take advantage of," he said.

He later added that Ohio had more clean-energy jobs come out of federal stimulus package in the first year than any other state in the country.

Brown also put an emphasis on making sure that the state is offering the types of opportunities for young people that will keep them in Ohio and contributing to the betterment of the state.

He said that he has been working on legislation that would allow job creation to occur from the bottom up, encouraging community colleges and regional businesses to work together to create appropriate job skill training in demand in a given area.

"It will be bottom-up workforce investment," he said.

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