NORWOOD, Ohio -- Nearly 30 years ago, Brian MacDonald was a young executive at General Motors dealing with the aftermath of the auto giant's decision to shutter its Camaro plant in Norwood.
"I actually spent a lot of time working on labor relations," MacDonald told WCPO. "Norwood was always a point of contention and point of discussion between the union and GM because of some of the contractual terms (in dispute)."
Those dark days for Norwood, when 4,000 GM jobs vanished, had a poetic reversal of fortune last year when CDK Global -- a company MacDonald now leads -- announced plans to bring 1,000 car-related jobs to Norwood.
CDK Global (Nasdaq: CDK) develops software for more than 27,000 car and other vehicle dealerships around the world. This technology that dealerships rely on requires a lot of highly trained people to back it up with good customer service.
That's where the Norwood facility comes in, providing client support, sales contract specialists, inside sales, and back-office work to keep the system running and growing.
"It was special for me to come to Norwood and cut the ribbon on a new site," MacDonald said.
CDK's decision to locate there was special for Norwood and Hamilton County, too.
"It is rare as an economic development official that you get to work on a project that creates so many well-paying jobs," Harry Blanton, vice president of HCDC Economic Development, said.
He credited the local talent pool helping to attract CDK.
"Beyond the jobs, though, CDK has been great partner for the city of Norwood and Hamilton County. They are a fast-growing company that cares about being a part of the community."
CDK has hired about 700 workers in Norwood as it continues to ramp up it operations, which opened in July 2016 with about 500 employees.
MacDonald said the Norwood office has worked out so well that they've added more inside sales jobs than they originally planned.
"We've been very happy with the quality of the workforce we've hired in Cincinnati," he said.
Middle America matters
CDK's software allows dealerships to live chat with customer support, but those chats sometimes turn into phone calls. While call centers can be located anywhere in the world, location counts for a lot, MacDonald said.
"We wanted people who understood the auto industry and understood the car-buying experience in America," he said. "If you live in Cincinnati, you probably drive to work and use a car to live your life."
He's bullish on the Norwood center's future.
"The fundamental message is that it's turned out to be a great location," MacDonald said. "It's so close to so many great universities, and we've been really pleased to have an office there."