The Great Ohio Resurgence
CNBC Auto and Airline Industry Reporter
If you want to see a textbook example of the resurgent American economy, head to Ohio.
At the heart of Ohio's resurgence is the rebound in manufacturing, led by auto plants now running at full tilt. A perfect example is the Jeep plant in Toledo where Fiat has invested $1.1 billion and is hiring 1, 100 workers.
"They have put a tremendous amount of new investment into the Toledo operations. It really gives them a new lease on life, " said Michael Robinet of IHS Global Insight. "If we were standing here four or five years ago, there was a possibility that there would be no Jeep Toledo operations."
Since bottoming out in 2010, Ohio's auto industry has added 17, 000 jobs and by extension the state's massive manufacturing base has added 51, 100 jobs.
Kennametal, which supplies tooling and industrial materials, has seen business at its Solon, Ohio, plant pick up. (Read More: 'Behind the Wheel' With Phil LeBeau .)
"I would definitely call this a rebound, " says Carlos Cardoso, CEO of Kennametal. "I think we can even make it a renaissance, but I wouldn't declare victory this point."
De-Cal Inc., which supplies pipes to manufacturers and energy companies drilling for natural gas in Ohio and Pennsylvania, is in the heart of the state's energy boom.
Just don't call it a boom to those in it. "This isn't a boom. People are gonna come here for jobs to retire, " says Michael Montgomery, De-Cal regional manager. De-Cal revenue has gone from $500, 000 in 2010 to an estimated $12 million this year.
It's estimated 2, 000 jobs have been added as Ohio has embraced fracking for natural gas and oil. There are currently fewer than 100 wells in operation, but that number is projected to skyrocket to 850 by the end of next year.
The oil and natural gas boom has created dozens of millionaires who have leased their mineral rights for as much as $6, 000 an acre. Five years ago, mineral rights sold for $5 per acre.
The newfound wealth has small towns and large cities considering or outright selling their mineral rights. Scio, Ohio, for example, struck a deal that brought in $180, 000 so it could fund city improvements to its wastewater treatment plant. Mayor Bob Hendricks says the fracking boom has given his small city a much-needed shot in the arm. (Read More: America's Top States for Job Creation 2012 .)
"There are people here spending money again, " he said.
As Ohio cities like Youngstown have explored selling the rights to drill on public property, a small but vocal opposition has emerged. They're worried fracking for oil and natural gas will pollute the groundwater and cause earthquakes. Numerous quakes have been felt in Ohio in the last two years.
The fear of fracking was seen at a Youngstown public hearing when one citizen asked the city council, "Are you that crazy for money, that you're gonna put people in jeopardy?"
Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone said he understands their concerns, but he also sees a potential windfall if the city leases its mineral rights. He wants to use the money to help pay for the demolition of 1, 100 abandoned homes — project that would cost at least $4 million. Youngstown is already facing a deficit of $5 million.
"We need money to eliminate these problems, " said Sammarone. "I get calls on a regular basis complaining about structures like these in neighborhoods, and they're driving the good people out."
These are changing times in a region that saw the steel industry wither away. But newfound prosperity comes with a heavy dose of reservations. Just ask Vernon Cesta, who opened a new restaurant in downtown Youngstown.
"Half of them think it's gonna be a long lasting effect in this area — and the other half think maybe the bubble will burst, " Cesta said.
Jim Cramer and Phil LeBeau travel to Ohio's Utica Shale region on Oct. 18 to report on America's quest for energy independence. Full coverage of "Invest in America" throughout the day on CNBC.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Ohio's auto industry added 51, 100 jobs since 2010. The industry actually added 17, 000 jobs and by extension the state's manufacturing base added 51, 100 jobs.